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Religion plays a central role in many New Yorkers’ lives. And when it comes to raising their kids, many see faith as a way to give children a sense of purpose and a moral compass to live by.

In this day and age, some younger couples are entering interfaith marriages. While some may see this as beneficial for raising families, it can complicate divorce as well.

Courts often see this as a delicate subject, as the Constitution protects most religious practices under the First Amendment. Because of this, some judges may be hesitant to touch this issue.

Custodial parents may have more influence

Depending on the circumstances, one parent usually gets sole custody of the kids. Because of this, custodial parents can raise the child in a faith of their choice. On the other hand, the custodial parent can’t stop the noncustodial parent from exposing their child to different religious ideologies.

Courts can step in if they suspect harm to child

Freedom of religion is a guaranteed right in the Constitution. However, if courts have reason to believe the child is suffering from burdensome expectations, they may step in.

For example, if a child is facing immense pressure to attend multiple church services while preparing for his bar mitzvah, courts may see this as damaging the child’s well-being. Depending on the circumstances, they may request that spouses look for other ways to implement their faiths in the child’s life.   

On the other hand, if one parent believes the other parent’s spiritual practices are too extreme, like if their religion encourages the child to commit violence, courts may intervene if one parent can prove the child is in grave danger.

Making these decisions is never easy

Aside from moral values, many parents see religion as a way to share a connection with their kids. At the same time, parents should also keep their child’s best interests in mind as divorce can uproot other aspects of their life.