Parental Responsibility and Religion

Does Having Parental Responsibility Over Decision Making Allow Me To Chose My Child’s Religion?

With all of the recent political hype and societal focus on the separation of church and state, I found it appropriate to breach the subject of religion as it relates to parental responsibility. To reiterate, as discussed in How Do I get Full Custody of My Children, the term “custody” no longer exists in Florida law rendering the terminology child custody laws obsolete. Now, when parties go through a divorce, they must formulate a parenting plan which includes not only a detailed timesharing schedule, but also a framework for decisions to be made about the minor child’s upbringing. This may include what sports or activities the child will be involved in, limitations on where and when the parent may travel with the child, and in some cases what religious traditions the child will adhere to.

Parental Responsibility Statute

The court, under Florida Statute §61.13, has the ability to order one parent ultimate parental responsibility over certain decisions affecting the welfare of the minor child if the parties cannot agree; or alternatively deciding itself what is in the best interest of the minor child. This can be awarded even when there is shared parental responsibility regarding custody matters. Decisions as to where the child will primarily reside, medical and dental care, and education are all expressly addressed in the statute, but the subject of religion is notably absent. In fact, the Fourth District Court of Appeal concluded that while  Florida Statute §61.13 requires parents to confer on all major decisions affecting the welfare of their child and to reach an agreement as to any required decision; when the matter involves the religious training and beliefs of the child, the court may not make a decision in favor of a specific religion over the objection of the other parent. The Court concluded that a Judge has no business in determining a child’s religion and these questions must be left to the parents, even if they clash.

The nuances of co-parenting are complicated and constantly changing. A divorce attorney can help you understand Florida law and how to use it to your advantage whether drafting a functioning parenting plan, calculating support, or handling any other issue that may arise when facing divorce or other family law issue such as parental responsibility.