Category: Religion

Unorthodox: Religion, Divorce and More Good Coronavirus Info

Religion and courts don’t mix. However, judges are sometimes asked to order a parent to enforce religious issues when timesharing. That just happened in Brooklyn, and the case involves ordering an atheist father to follow religious laws. There’s also some good coronavirus information out there.

Divorce Religion

Brooklyn 2020

During any relationship, a parent is free to choose how strictly to enforce the other parent’s religion. Sure, feeding your Jewish child Cuban croquetas may lead to a divorce, but your spouse can’t report you to the police for not eating kosher.

But how about after a couple files for divorce? When the parents have divorced and entered into a settlement agreement about religious matters, for example, some religious restrictions may be enforceable in court despite the separation between church and state.

Recently in Brooklyn, a couple practiced Satmar Hasidic Judaism, the same sect in the Netflix series “Unorthodox.” In the Brooklyn case, the Father went “unorthodox”, but continued to dress as a Hasidic Jew. After the divorce, a family court awarded the mother sole custody with the father getting parental access.

The father was ordered to give the children kosher food and make “all reasonable efforts to ensure that the children’s appearance and conduct comply with the Hasidic’ religious requirements of the mother and of the children’s schools as they were raised while the children were in his custody.

Florida Religion and Divorce

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce – especially as it relates to vaccinations. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are not statutory factors Florida courts consider when determining parental responsibility.

Nor is religion an area in which a parent may be granted ultimate responsibility over a child. Instead, the weight religion plays in custody disputes grew over time in various cases.

One of the earliest Florida case in which religion was a factor in deciding parental responsibility restricted one parent from exposing the children to that parent’s religion.

The Mother was a member of The Way International, and the Father introduced evidence that The Way made the Mother an unfit parent. He alleged The Way psychologically brainwashed her, that she had become obsessed, and was neglecting the children. The trial judge awarded custody to the Mother provided that she sever all connections, meetings, tapes, visits, communications, or financial support with The Way, and not subject the children to any of its dogmas.

The Mother appealed the restrictions as a violation of her free exercise of religion. The appellate court agreed, and held the restrictions were unconstitutionally overbroad and expressly restricted the Mother’s free exercise of her religious beliefs and practices.

Following that, and other decisions, Florida courts will not stop a parent from practicing their religion or from influencing the religious training of their child inconsistent with that of the other parent.

When the matter involves the religious training and beliefs of the child, the court generally does not make a decision in favor of a specific religion over the objection of the other parent. The court should also avoid interference with the right of a parent to practice their own religion and avoid imposing an obligation to enforce the religious beliefs of the other parent.

Do the Right Thing

The Brooklyn case went back to the family court, and after a hearing was held, the mother conceded that the father was not really preventing the children from practicing their Judaism during his timesharing.

Instead, the mother’s complaint was that the father himself was not complying with Hasidic religious requirements in the presence of the children while he was timesharing with them, and that didn’t comply with the religious clause.

After the hearing, the family court attempted to enforce the religious upbringing provision of the judgment by ordering the father – during his timesharing – to “conduct himself in accordance with the cultural norms” of Hasidic Judaism established by the parents during the marriage.

The court then directed that the father’s behavior and conduct when in the presence of the children “must and should be consistent with the cultural norm . . . established by the parents.”

The father appealed from that part of the order directing him to comply with the cultural norms of Hasidic Judaism during his timesharing. The appellate court reversed.

By directing him to comply with the “cultural norms” of Hasidic Judaism during his timesharing, the family court ran afoul of constitution by compelling the father to himself practice a religion, rather than merely directing him to provide the children with a religious upbringing.

While the court referred to the “cultural norms” by which the children were raised, the testimony at the hearing made clear that the “cultural norms” were really the religious requirements of Hasidic Judaism, which was unconstitutional.

Good Coronavirus Information

Green spaces, parks, and boardwalks are too crowded — making it impossible to maintain the minimum 6 feet of social distancing recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention without exposing yourself or your family to the coronavirus.

Tech can help avoid those areas and crowds if you absolutely must leave your shelter. Here are some tools that can help:

  • Strava, the activity-tracking app, can help you find alternative routes for running, walking and riding.
  • AllTrails identifies lightly treaded trails nearby.
  • Before your next grocery run, consult Google’s popular times to see if it’s crowded. A pink “Live” indicator is a good representation of how many people are there right now.
  • If you aren’t sure what 6 feet looks like, bust out the Measure app on your iPhone or Android device.

The Reason article is here.

 

Child Custody and Choosing Religion

The mother was Christian and the father a Muslim, but she converted to Islam when they married. After they separated, the mother reverted to Christianity. When parents share or have joint child custody, who decides the child’s religion? A New York appellate court just gave the answer.

Choosing My Religion

A Brooklyn couple divorced in 2009 with one child. Their settlement agreement gave them joint legal custody, and the mother had primary physical custody.

The agreement made them consult with each other about the child’s religion, but did not specify which religion the child would be raised. The mother taught the child Christian values and practices.

The child complained the father was pressuring her to adopt Muslim practices and threatened to abcond with her to his native Morocco if she failed to follow Muslim practices and customs.

The child asked the mother to call the police and school personnel. The mother filed for sole legal custody, and the father petitioned to enforce visitation and to enforce a purported oral agreement that the child would be raised as a Muslim.

Florida Custody and Religion

I have published an article on the intersection of religion and custody before, especially when that intersection relates to harm to the child.

For example in one area there is a frequent religious controversy: whether to give a child their mandatory vaccinations.  Usually, religion is used by the objecting parent as a defense to vaccinating children.

Whenever a court decides custody, the sine qua non is the best interests of the child. But, deciding the religious upbringing of a child puts the court in a tough position.

There is nothing in our custody statute allowing a court to consider religion as a factor in custody, and a court’s choosing one parent’s religious beliefs over another’s, probably violates the Constitution.

So, unless there is actual harm being done to the child by the religious upbringing, it would seem that deciding the child’s faith is out of bounds for a judge.

Ironically, that may not be the rule all over Florida. Different appellate courts in Florida have slightly different takes on the issue, and the question of whether a trial court can consider a parent’s religious beliefs as a factor in determining custody has been allowed.

The Brooklyn, New York case involved the modification of an existing joint custody order.

In Florida, the person seeking modification of custody must show both that the circumstances have substantially, materially changed since the original custody order, and that the child’s best interests justify changing custody. Additionally, the substantial change must be one that was not reasonably contemplated at the time of the original judgment.

Losing My Religion

Back in Brooklyn, the Family Court granted the mother’s to modify joint custody, and give her sole legal custody but granted the father liberal visitation, including on all major Muslim holidays.

The parties’ inability to agree on the child’s religion, the change in the child’s relationship with the father, her fear of his displeasure for not being a “true Muslim,” and her belief that he’d kidnap her to Morocco, constituted changes in circumstances.

The appellate court held that awarding the Mother sole decision-making authority with respect to religion was in the child’s best interests because the father’s actual or perceived insistence that the child follow Islam and threats to abscond to Morocco had a serious adverse effect on the child’s relationship.

The opinion in Baala v. Baala is here.