Parenting Agreements Relating to Religion and Children in San Diego in 2012

In San Diego, many couples enter into a parenting agreement about which faith the children are to be brought up in. Religion is a very serious decision to all parents and it is not uncommon for parents to be of different religions. During the marriage or when the parents are getting along, this is not an issue but, after divorce or conflict, this can become a major issue. Agreements might be oral or in writing and courts may respect this agreement if a dispute arises at a later date about religious upbringing. But if the agreement has not been strictly adhered to, the court might not be inclined to enforce it. Some courts might even fail to take cognizance of a post-separation agreement. If that happens it could happen for a number of reasons which are outlined below:

A vague agreement. Before getting married couples often enter into an agreement without considering the prospect of a separation at a later date or a divorce. Consequently these agreements are inclined to be vague and are not specific about religious training and various matters related to it, including whether on special occasions the children can attend the place of worship of the other parent. This can include if a child is going to a private school which has a religious component.

An oral agreement. The two parties could have different interpretations and might disagree on the terms of the agreement entered into. If the court cannot correctly determine what was agreed to originally it will not enforce such an agreement and may not enforce in any event if not in the best interests of the child. As above, if a child was enrolled in private school with a religious component during the marriage, the San Diego Judge will consider this.

The agreement is far too old. Courts are reluctant to tie-down either parent to any agreement that was entered into years ago.

Courts are reluctant to curtail parenting rights and First Amendment. The last thing courts want to do is to interfere with parenting rights, for the most part (there are exceptions), or the First Amendment. Furthermore, courts have no interest in becoming involved with supervising on how parents comply with their agreement and only in enforcement if violation of a court order. As far as possible, courts want to stay away from interfering with private affairs. The social justice system does not have the means or resources to monitor every child or even half of them and how their home life is evolving.

However, courts will not disregard agreements relating to religious upbringing and will consider. For instance, if you have agreed to take your child to Catholic mass on Sunday since that is the agreement you made with your ex-partner, then that is something that will be considered if this was the custom and practice during marriage.

How Does This Affect You?

All issues in court are deeply disturbing, particularly in cases relating to religion which is a very personal and emotional issue. In addition, the outcome of legal cases is fraught with uncertainty. If you can, settling a matter out of court through mediation or other means is certainly a preferable solution. But if you feel your child might come to harm because of the religious practices of the ex-spouse you might consider seeking the services of a mental health professional. This will help allay your fears or provide the evidence you need to renegotiate your agreement.

Which Avenue to Take

If you are in the San Diego jurisdiction and you are up against issues of religious upbringing of your children with your ex-spouse, you should consult the law firm of Doppelt & Forney, APLC. This firm is focused on all aspects of family law, including such issues as child custody, child support, visitation rights, and religious upbringing agreements. You could take advantage of a free initial 30-minute consultation to help you know which way to go and which route looks the most promising.

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