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What Role Does Religion Play in the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?

Divorces involving minor children from the marriage often are more complicated than divorce cases in which there are no minor children since the divorce process will need to involve the allocation of parental responsibilities. In some situations, the parents are able to develop a parenting plan in which they allocate parental responsibilities themselves in a way that is still in the best interests of the child but permits the parents to play a bigger role. If parents cannot reach an agreement about how parental responsibilities will be allocated, the court will do so for them in an allocation judgment. There are numerous issues that can come into play in the allocation of parental responsibilities. Where does religion fit in?

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) specifically discusses religion, and the function can play in the allocation of parental responsibilities. The statute also clarifies that the issue of religion or religious upbringing is only relevant in certain cases where there is already some sort of agreement in place between the parents.

Defining Religious Upbringing Under the IMDMA

The IMDMA specifically defines religious upbringing as how the child is raised in a particular religion, such as religious school or attending religious services.

Then, the IMDMA cites religion, including the child’s religious upbringing, as one of the key elements in significant decision-making responsibilities (the aspect of parental responsibilities that used to be known as legal custody). Along with education, health, and extracurricular activities, religion is listed as one of the significant issues involved in parents’ significant decision-making responsibilities. Accordingly, when parents share significant decision-making responsibilities, one or both may be tasked with making decisions about the child’s religion and religious upbringing. 

Yet religion does not necessarily have to play a role in the allocation of parental responsibilities. It depends upon the specific facts of the case.

When Religious Upbringing is Not Part of Significant Decision-Making Responsibilities

The IMDMA clarifies that the court will only allocate parental responsibilities concerning a child’s religious upbringing when the parents have already agreed on what that upbringing should look like. The statute clarifies that the court will not allocate any part of the child’s religious upbringing if it has not already been established by the parents or the child is already being brought up in that fashion.  

In other words, when the parents have not previously come to an agreement about the child’s religious upbringing, the court will not allocate parental responsibilities concerning a child’s religion or religious upbringing. When there was an express or implied agreement between the parents about the child’s religion, the court will look at past conduct related to the child’s religious upbringing when allocating this aspect of parental responsibilities. 

Contact a Child Custody Lawyer in Chicago

If you have questions or concerns about the allocation of parental responsibilities, a dedicated Chicago child custody lawyer at our firm can speak with you today about your case. Contact Arami Law, Inc. to learn more about how we can assist you.

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