Tag: Religious Divorce

Court Orders Covid Vaccination of Children

In a child custody case in Kentucky, a family court orders the COVID vaccination of two small children. Last week a Kentucky appellate court decided the important issue of whether the family court judge was legally entitled to require the COVID vaccinations for the children over one parent’s objection.

Kentyck covid

The COVID Vaccine Derby

Recently Canada resolved the issue over whether an unvaccinated parent can actually lose their child custody rights for refusing to vaccinate their child. This week’s issue is slightly different, can the court require a vaccination over another parent’s strongly held religious views and objection.

In the Kentucky case, the parties had divorced in 2018. They shared joint custody and equal timesharing of their two children, aged eight and six. Throughout their marriage, and divorce, the parents always declined the required immunizations for their children on religious grounds.

In fact, there was proof that they had signed affidavits in New York and Georgia declining vaccinations for their children on religious grounds and when they divorced, they signed Kentucky’s form for declining immunizations on religious grounds.

However, two years later, the father had a change of heart. On June 30, 2020, he filed a motion for an order to allow him to vaccinate the children. The Mother objected, and a hearing was held in Family Court to resolve the question.

The Father testified that he originally agreed not to vaccinate the children because he was leaving for deployment with the military and was unable to meet with the pediatrician. He thought there was an understanding the parties would just delay the vaccines.

But, after he finished his military service, he began discussions with Mother regarding vaccinations for the children. Father stated that when he signed the vaccination declination affidavit he had doubts about the development of certain vaccines by use of aborted fetal cells.

Now he believes the use of aborted fetal cells is so far removed from the process of developing vaccines that his concerns no longer exist. He believes it is appropriate to vaccinate the children. He wants to follow the advice of the children’s pediatrician to vaccinate.

The Mother vehemently objected saying that doing so violates her firmly held religious convictions opposing the use of aborted fetal cells in the manufacture and design of the vaccines. Rather, she prefers using medication and antibiotics to treat her children. She argues there was an understanding between her and Father that the children should not be vaccinated and produced multiple documents the parties signed to that effect.

Florida Child Vaccinations

I’ve written about the injection of vaccines into Florida child custody cases before. In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility. Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.

Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child. In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate, are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

In Florida, a court can carve out an exception to shared parental responsibility, giving one parent “ultimate authority” to make decisions, such as the responsibility for deciding on vaccinations.

The decision to vaccinate raises interesting family law issues. It is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in Florida and other states.

Kentucky Fried Covid

The family court trial judge ruled it was in the children’s best interest to be vaccinated. The judge reasoned that, on balance, the children’s health and welfare outweighed the religious beliefs of one parent.

The court ordered that the parties consult with the pediatrician to craft a “catch-up” schedule bringing the children current on vaccinations and other immunizations, or, if the parties were able, to agree to alternative vaccines that could potentially be utilized that do not use aborted fetal cells in their development and design.

In affirming the trial judge’s ruling on appeal, the appellate court noted the overriding principle that the best interest of each child must be served by the family court’s decision.

The mother’s argument did not articulate any detriment or risk of harm to her children by not vaccinating them. The father simply argued her religious views should not take precedence over his.

The court ruled that when there is an impasse between a Mother and Father a family court properly can ‘break the tie’. Equal decision-making power is not required for joint custody, and parties or trial courts are free to vest greater authority in one parent even under a joint custody arrangement.

The family court heard from both the Mother and Father, and found that it would be in the children’s best interest to be vaccinated in accordance with their pediatrician’s recommendations and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

The Kentucky appellate opinion is here.

Divorce Causes in India

Divorce can have many causes, but in India there is a bizarre case going on in which a Muslim woman has sought divorce in an Islamic court from her husband on the grounds that he does not fight with her enough.

India Divorce

The Spice of Life

The unidentified woman in the Sambhal district of Uttar Pradesh has sought a divorce from her husband after only 18-months of marital bliss. The woman approached the Sharia court in Sambhal to seek a divorce, leaving the court puzzled.

Why was the court so confused?

The chief complaint from the woman is that her husband loves her too much and does not fight with her. The woman claimed that her husband’s love was ‘suffocating’ her.

“He does not shout at me and neither has he upset me on any issue. He even cooks for me and also helps me in performing household chores.”

She further said, “Whenever I make a mistake, he always forgives me for that. I wanted to argue with him. I do not need a life where the husband agrees to anything.”

The Sharia court cleric, as expected, rejected her plea for divorce, terming it as frivolous. When the Sharia court refused to grant her divorce, the woman took up the matter with the local panchayat (the local self-government in villages in rural India), which also expressed its inability to decide the issue.

Florida No Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, whether your husband is always forgiving of your mistakes, or worse, very agreeable to anything you want, you don’t need to allege that as a grounds for divorce.

I’ve written about divorce and infidelity issues before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your husband’s nice demeanor. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. Gone are the days when you had to prove adultery, desertion or annoying behavior in a government enforced quarantine.

The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

What do you do if you are trapped in quarantine with someone you want to separate from?

To avoid problems during a quarantine, you may have to force yourself to work together – however difficult that may be.

Couples who are separating or separated already, and are parents, are being forced to work as a team and talk through problems that are making forced quarantine impossible. Reassure each other that you will make it through and work together.

The key if you’re living together is to strike the right balance between having quality intimate time together, or if you’re at the brink of your relationship, giving each other some space.

Divorce Bollywood Style?

Back in India meanwhile, the nice husband has gone on record and stated that he loved his wife dearly and always wanted to keep her happy. He also asked the Sharia Court cleric to reject the divorce plea. Of course.

The court has now asked the couple to resolve the matter mutually.

The Tribune India article is here.

 

Child Custody and the Constitution and Some Good Coronavirus Information

With state and local officials entering shelter in place orders, many parents feel they are being deprived of their constitutional rights to child custody. What are a parent’s constitutional rights during a global emergency? There’s also some good coronavirus information.

Constituion Child Custody

There is no instruction book for a pandemic

Happy belated Easter to everyone . . . except residents of Louisville, Kentucky! The home of Muhammad Ali, the Kentucky Derby, and Kentucky Fried Chicken is in the news. That’s because on Holy Thursday, Louisville’s mayor, Greg Fischer, criminalized the communal celebration of Easter.

Our nation faces a public health emergency caused by the exponential spread of COVID-19. This has led many state and local officials to order increasingly tighter restrictions to promote social distancing and prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Can the state go too far? One federal court thinks so. Last week Louisville’s mayor said, it was “with a heavy heart” that he was banning religious services, even if congregants remain in their cars during the service. A Louisville church then filed an emergency motion in federal court to enjoin the mayor, and won.

The mayor noted that it’s not really practical or safe to accommodate drive-up church services taking place but drive-through liquor stores are A-OK!

Notwithstanding the exemptions of some drive-through places, on Holy Thursday, the Mayor threatened church members and pastors if they hold a drive-in Easter service.

The federal judge, noting American history on religious bigotry, said the pilgrims fled religious persecution, slave owners flogged slaves for attending prayer meetings, mobs drove the Latter-Day Saints to Utah; hatred against Catholics motivated the Blaine Amendment, and Harvard University created a quota system to limit Jewish students.

The judge then found the Mayor’s decision to be stunning and “beyond all reason,” unconstitutional.

Florida Child Custody and the Constitution

Like religions, the constitution protects parental rights too. I have written about the intersection of the constitution and marital law before. The United States Supreme Court has concluded that freedom of personal choice in matters of family life is a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Florida courts have long recognized this fundamental parental right. The basic proposition is that parents have a legal right to enjoy the custody, fellowship and companionship of their offspring. This is a rule older than the common law itself.

But the parents’ rights are not absolute, as the state has parens patriae authority to ensure that children receive reasonable medical treatment which is necessary for the preservation of life.

So, in Florida the ultimate welfare of the child itself is controlling. While the parent’s interest in maintaining parental ties is essential, the child’s entitlement to an environment free of harm, physical and emotional violence at the hands of parents and caretakers and for medical treatment necessary for the preservation of life.

Because Florida has a compelling interest in protecting all its citizens—especially its youth—against the clear threat of abuse, neglect and death, the constitutional rights can give way.

Kentucky Fried Liberty

Back in Louisville, the court found the city order was not “neutral” between religious and non-religious conduct because it targeted religious worship by prohibiting drive-in church services, but not drive-through liquor stores.

The court noted that the city was pursuing a compelling interest of the highest order through its efforts to contain the current pandemic, but its actions were not even close to being “narrowly tailored to advance that interest.

The court also found that the church was committed to practicing social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines. Cars will park six feet apart and all congregants will remain in their cars with windows no more than half open for the entirety of the service.” Its pastor and a videographer will be the only people outside cars, and they will be at a distance from the cars.

There is no instruction book for a pandemic. The threat evolves. Experts reevaluate. And government officials make the best calls they can, based on the best information they have. You may not agree with the court’s reasons, but the judge saw his role to explain, to teach, and to persuade.

Good Coronavirus News

Speaking of the constitution, to stem the spread of COVID-19, many cities have passed executive orders requiring people to cover their mouth and nose when going out.

Face masks (surgical or homemade) are now being required in public, such as when going to drive-through liquor stores. But do homemade masks work? The science with different types of masks is not conclusive, but this graphic is good information anyway:

COVID 19

In theory, all masks may prevent some sprays of virus-laden fluids from entering your nose and mouth (inward protection). They are also a reminder not to touch your face. And, if you’re sick, they may help keep some aerosols inside (outward protection), to protect people around you.

The U.S. District Court order is here.

 

Will the Philippines Legalize Divorce

We sometimes take it for granted that a toxic marriage, which can destroy your life and the lives of your children, can be amicably resolved here. That’s not true everywhere. There’s a new bill to legalize divorce in the Philippines — the only remaining state aside from Vatican City that has no divorce law.

Legalize Divorce

‘Thrilla’ in Manila

Many in the Philippines have been advocating for the passage of a divorce bill.

“Divorce is not a monster that will destroy marriages and wreck marital relationships. Let us be clear about this — the monsters that lead to the demise of a marriage are infidelity, abuse, financial problems, lack of intimacy and communication, and inequality.”

Despite this development, religious groups, pro-family advocates who were present in the hearing, and even fellow lawmakers expressed their disapproval of the measure.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about attempts to criminalize divorce before. Divorce, of course, is legal in the United States. However, traditionally it was made difficult by having to prove “fault.” This required spouses to prove either adultery; abandonment for a certain length of time; prison confinement; a spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse; or that the other spouse has inflicted emotional or physical pain (cruelty).

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

After divorce became legal, the concept of proving fault gave way to no-fault laws to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom. “Reduced” the need, not eliminated the need.

Dragged into the 21st Century

A Philippine church official has expressed surprise over the speedy acceptance of the bill in that would legalize divorce.

“I was surprised at the speed at which the committee accepted the bill. I was expecting exhaustive deliberations and discussions would be conducted on the measure.”

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon described the acceptance of the proposed measure as alarming. Earlier, the Catholic Council of the Laity of the Philippines issued a statement expressing opposition to the divorce bill.

The group said the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly provides that divorce is “immoral” because it introduces disorder into the family and into society.

The CNN article is here.

 

Social Media and International Child Custody

An American woman living in Saudi Arabia has been punished in her international child custody divorce. During the divorce trial, her Saudi ex-husband was able to introduce exhibits from her social media account into evidence. The social media evidence proved fatal to her custody case.

ocial media international child custody

Desert Justice

Though she succeeded with the divorce, her custody battle appeared to reach a dead end after a Saudi judge awarded custody of their daughter Zeina to the husband’s mother, who lives with him, despite video evidence Ms. Vierra submitted to the court that she said showed her ex-husband doing drugs and verbally abusing her in front of their daughter.

“It’s like 10,000 times worse here because so much is at risk for women when they go to court. I genuinely thought that there would still be justice served here, and I kind of put everything on that.”

Saudi courts prioritize ensuring that children are raised in accordance with Islam. According to court documents, the judge accepted Ms. Vierra’s ex-husband’s arguments that she was unfit to raise Zeina because she was a Westerner, and ran a yoga studio.

Social Media and International Child Custody

Divorce trials usually require the introduction of sensitive and personal evidence. For example, it is common to hire private investigators to film spouses, or use forensic accountants to hunt for strange credit card charges.

Sometimes though, the evidence falls in your lap. Facebook and other social media sites are often filled with very personal information which is increasingly being used in divorce trials. You may have heard of some examples:

  • A Husband posts his status as single and childless on Facebook while seeking primary custody of his children.
  • A mother is accused of never attending her kids’ school events because of her online gaming addiction. Evidence subpoenaed from World of Warcraft tracks her on-line with her boyfriend at the time when she was supposed to be with the children.
  • A husband denies he has any anger management issues, but posts on Facebook; “If you have the balls to get in my face, I’ll kick your ass into submission.”
  • A mom denies in court that she ever smokes marijuana, but then uploads photos of herself smoking pot on Facebook.

Is the evidence admissible? And if so, how do you prove the evidence is real and not maliciously put there? The Florida Bar Commentator published an article I wrote about using Facebook evidence at trial.

The article discusses the evidentiary potential of social media sites, and the peculiar challenges of authenticating materials from the internet. Social media websites like Facebook have had an astronomical growth worldwide, and are showing up in divorce trials.

The article suggests some of the benefits and obstacles in gathering and using Facebook and other social media evidence at trial. The article also reviews the then leading national cases on social media websites, and outlines when it is necessary to use computer forensic firms and other sources to ensure that the evidence is properly admitted.

Your Desert Kingdom Divorce

The status of women in Saudi Arabia is changing. Many women now enjoy new reforms in the law which allow women to drive, and even to a certain degree, vote. The election allowing it was for municipal councils with few powers, but the reform is a milestone for many women.

But the dramatic changes have not touched the most fundamental restriction on Saudi women, a guardianship system that gives men control over many critical parts of their wives.

The guardianship system’s rules extend to women who marry Saudis, like Ms. Vierra. Even after she divorced her husband last year, Ms. Vierra’s ex-husband remains her guardian. Wielding his guardianship powers, he prevented her from going home to see her family at Christmas and let her legal residency expire, which left her stuck, unable to access her bank account or leave Saudi Arabia.

During the divorce trial, he told the court that Ms. Vierra, did not speak Arabic well, and that she was an atheist. He also submitted photos of her in a bikini, in yoga pants . . . with her hair uncovered! This social media evidence of Ms. Vierra wearing forbidden yoga pants, in a country that requires women to wear loose abayas in public, was devastating at the divorce trial.

The court accepted his testimony at face value, she said, while hers was legally worthless unless she could bring in male witnesses to back her up. She tried to counter with videos of him that she said showed him rolling a joint to smoke hashish, talking on the phone about his marijuana use and screaming at Ms. Vierra, all with Zeina in the room. Though he acknowledged his drug use, he accused her in court of giving him the drugs and of forcing him to say he was an atheist, both of which Ms. Vierra denies.

In the end, the judge found both parents unfit to raise Zeina, awarding custody instead to the husband’s mother. But Ms. Vierra did not find this comforting; she said her ex-husband’s sister had testified that their mother had hit them and emotionally abused them as children.

“This is not just my story — there’s much worse. It’s hard to believe stuff like this can happen.”

The Independent article is here.

 

Mixing Religion and Divorce

Afreen Rehman, a woman living in India, was recovering from an accident when her husband sent her family a letter with the word “talaq” written three times. Their marriage was over under an Islamic practice which India just banned. Rehman’s case proves mixing religion and divorce has its detractors . . . and its fans.

religion and divorce

Your Fast, Low-Cost Divorce

Rehman’s husband relied on an Islamic law that allows a husband to annul a marriage by uttering the word talaq—Arabic for “divorce”—three times. The practice is commonly known as “triple talaq,” or instant divorce.

India’s Parliament passed a bill to criminalize the triple talaq. A man who imposes an instant divorce on his wife faces up to three years in prison. Not surprisingly, women’s-rights activists, Islamic groups, and different political parties are divided on the issue.

Many Muslim women’s groups have demanded the change, saying that the tradition of instant divorce is detrimental to them. But conservative Islamic organizations say the government has no business getting involved in a religious practice. Others acknowledge the change is needed, but say that it comes at a time when Hindu nationalism is the dominant political movement in India.

Instant divorce is not mentioned in the Koran, which says that a couple chooses separation once they have made all possible efforts to resolve their differences. The custom is attributed to the hadith – the record of the traditions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad – which is held in high regard by Muslims.

After the bill’s passage, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Parliament abolishes Triple Talaq and corrects a historic wrong done to Muslim women.”

Florida Mixing Religion and Divorce

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce before. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are not specific statutory factors in determining parental responsibility.

Nor are religion and religious practices areas in which a parent may be granted ultimate responsibility. Instead, the weight religion plays in custody disputes incubated over time in various cases.

For purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration.

In Florida, a determination of the best interests of the child is made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family.

Clear as Tikka Masala

Rehmen’s case is not unique. There have been reported cases of Muslim men, such as Rehman’s husband, carrying out instant divorce through letters, text messages, emails, and WhatsApp messages — without providing alimony or financial support.

The government maintains that Muslim women are vulnerable both socially and financially because of an absence of reforms in the Muslim community. There is no official data on the prevalence of instant divorce in India.

But the passage of the Indian law also raises questions about whether the government should involve itself in what is essentially Muslim personal law. At issue is mixing religion and divorce. To account for a diverse population of different faiths, India’s constitution allows every religious group to formulate personal laws.

A Hindu would be allowed to follow Hindu rules for marriage; same for Christians, and a Muslim’s divorce comes under the purview of Muslim personal law.

The number of separated and abandoned women in India, at 2.3mm, is twice the number of divorced women. If the government were serious about women’s rights, some argue, it would introduce reforms across communities, rather than focusing on one religious practice pertaining to Muslims.

Opposition parties, as well as human-rights advocates, have condemned the practice of instant divorce, but say the ban feeds into the perceived marginalization of Muslims who feel threatened by recent attacks by Hindu vigilantes.

Some believe the legislation is a step toward replacing personal laws with a uniform civil code that would encompass all Indian citizens, irrespective of faith and also claim:

The bill takes away a chance at any reconciliation. Any man jailed because of the wife’s complaint will never opt for reconciliation. The bill leaves women penniless, children practically orphaned. If the man [is] imprisoned, how will he provide maintenance to his wife? The bill amounts to a state coercion.

The Atlantic article is here.

 

Why is this Divorce Different?: Passover Divorces

It’s common knowledge that divorce filings increase after the holiday period from November through New Year’s. We are not alone. In Israel, the rate of people filing for divorce before Passover is three times as high as during the rest of the year.

The Bitter Herbs of Passover Divorces

According to the Jerusalem Post, the reason for this increase in Passover divorces is the number of stresses that surface around the holidays. For example, there could be a question of where a family will hold its Seder.

The stress of the Passover season will sound familiar to anyone who deals with the stress during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

There is a lot of sensitivity around relationships with extended family. Additionally, there is too much to do and greater financial demands during the holidays.

To help alleviate these stressors, it is important to plan in advance.

Having a Sweet Florida Divorce

I’ve written about divorces and their causes before. Passover divorces are similar to any other religious holiday in which you are cooped up in a house with your in-laws during the holidays, when your marriage is having problems. The holidays can take a toll on the best couples.

During the holidays, people try to put on a happy face for the kids and visiting relatives. And after seeing other families on Facebook and Instagram – the idea of perfect looking families haunts many couples who wonder why their lives don’t look as happy.

“Beware that the holiday period invites many hours that couples are together, which can lead to conflicts arising. Don’t make impulsive decisions on ending a connection during the holidays. Persevere until afterwards and then look at the situation with a new perspective.

Is there a way to make Passover divorces sweet like charoset? Whatever the reason for your problems, there are a few things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know to help them through the process.

Prioritize

Line up your priorities for life after the divorce. Is it finding a home? Is it retiring? Getting a job? Managing your special-needs child? Consider writing down your most important goals.

Consult

Even if you aren’t certain you need to hire an attorney, or filing for divorce at all, it is a good idea to meet with an expert in Florida’s divorce and family laws. Who better than someone certified by Florida as an expert in marital and family law?

Alternatives

Litigation is something to avoid. It’s time-consuming, contentious and expensive. The majority of divorces end up settling.

There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution out there, including collaborative divorce, mediation, and informal settlement conferences.

Is there a shank bone in a Vegan Passover?

Back in Israel, in addition to the increase in new applications for Passover divorces, there is often an increase in the number of religious Jewish divorces – called “Gets” – that are finalized.

This is because of “the feeling that the holiday time’s a time to finish things and start fresh. It affects the state of mind.

A wife and a husband hold different religious standards and deciding where the kids should be can push them over the edge. The Jerusalem Post reported how last year a woman insisted on having a vegan Seder and her husband would not agree. This led to divorce.

The Jerusalem Post article is here.

Can You Lose Your Job in Divorce?

A court in Israel just ordered the nation’s largest commuter bus company to fire an employee because he refuses to divorce his wife. The company has 30-days to comply. Why would you lose your job for refusing to divorce? What if it is a religious divorce?

Religious Divorce

Divorce on One Foot

A Jewish couple from India, who have been married for over a decade, immigrated to Israel with their only child. The Husband has been accused of abusing his wife, and the situation worsened after they moved. Three years ago, the Wife filed for divorce, reconciled, and then renewed the religious divorce.

Israel’s divorce law is based on the Ottoman Empire’s old millet law. Unlike the United States, where divorces are handled by family courts, in Israel there are parallel courts involving divorce, the religious court and family court.

Additionally, divorce court may depend on which religious community you belong to because religious courts have jurisdiction of their own religious members. This means Muslims are divorced in Sharia courts, Christians divorce in ecclesiastical courts, and Jews divorce in Jewish courts.

In Judaism, religious law requires husbands to grant their wives a “get” – a Jewish bill of divorce to be a valid divorce. Ten months ago, a rabbinical court ordered the Husband to grant his Wife a divorce. But he refused, unless she waived her right to their joint property.

Florida Divorce and Religion

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce a few times. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are generally not considered in Florida divorces. Surprisingly for many, even when child custody is an issue, there are no specific statutory factors in determining custody on religious grounds.

Currently in Florida, child custody decisions are based in accordance with the best interests of the child.

As it relates to religion, Florida courts have decided that there must be a clear, affirmative showing that religious activities will be harmful to the child for religion to be a factor.

Egged On

The religious divorce court has imposed various financial sanctions on the Husband for refusing to divorce, including requiring him to pay his wife $410 a month as a sanction. But he still refuses to divorce her.

Last week, a panel of rabbinical judges granted the Wife’s request and ordered an Israeli bus company to fire the Husband within 30-days.

Yad L’Isha praised the decision. “Every creative solution like this gives great hope to other women that there are other ways to release them from the prison of their marriage”. Yad L’Isha is the world’s largest organization dedicated to helping women unable to obtain a Jewish divorce.

The Haaretz article is here.

Photo courtesy of Rickjpelleg

 

Getting a Religious Divorce

Just in time for the holidays is the problem of religious divorce. Many women are stuck in their former marriages because their secular divorce was not enough to allow them to remarry in their religion. This post looks at the problems and solutions for getting a religious divorce.

The Religious Problem

I’ve written about the issue of religious divorce many times. The religious nature of divorces for many couples, particularly for Muslim and Jewish women, complicates settlement.

That’s because religious courts have no enforcement authority in the United States, and the First Amendment of the Constitution prevents secular courts from intervening in purely religious disputes.

Also, religious authorities are very critical about the secular enforcement of divorce as it can contravene religious law. Among religious people, there’s also a reluctance on using secular courts against their coreligionists, which discourages people from getting help in state court.

Islamic Divorce

The Economist recently reported on Shirin Musa, and her bitter religious divorce experience which ultimately inspired her to help women caught between legal and cultural worlds.

A resident in the Netherlands, Shirin was unhappily married to a man from her native Pakistan. In 2009 a Dutch judge divorced them, but her husband would not grant an Islamic divorce.

Although she lived in secular Europe, her husband’s refusal to grant a religious divorce mattered. If she remarried without a religious divorce, she could be considered an adulteress under Islamic law. She also risked religious punishment if she ever tried to return to Pakistan.

So, Shirin sued her former spouse through the Dutch secular courts. In 2010 she received a landmark judgment: her ex-husband would be fined $295 a day, up to a maximum of $11,795 as long as he refused to cooperate.

The sanction had the desired effect on her ex-husband She then persuaded the Dutch parliament to make holding women in such “marital captivity” a criminal offence, in theory punishable by jail.

Jewish Divorce

Jewish women share a similar problem to Muslim women. Under the strict interpretations of Jewish law, only the husband can grant a divorce document, called a “get.” Without a get, the woman is still religiously married, regardless of how long it’s been since the civil divorce.

Without a get, a Jewish woman can’t remarry and have more children, lest she be declared an adulterer and her children from the second marriage shunned by the community.

Women in this situation can be trapped for years as their childbearing years fade away. In Hebrew, many call them agunot, or “chained women.”

Solutions

First, you may want to secure a religious divorce before even filing a secular divorce. This prevents the husband from using the religious divorce as a bargaining chip.

Securing a religious divorce before filing a civil divorce also prevents another common problem: imams and rabbis stepping in to negotiate large cash payments in exchange for a religious divorce.

Another civil legal remedy is a prenuptial agreement. Under a prenuptial agreement, the spouses could agree to arbitrate the marital dispute, and the husband agrees to pay the wife a set amount per day until he grants a religious divorce.

The Economist article is available here.

 

Religious Marriage & Divorce

A recent survey found that 6 in 10 women who had Muslim religious weddings are not in legal marriages, depriving them of spousal rights. Many people have religious weddings, and don’t get a marriage license. What is the importance of the marriage license, and is the religious ceremony enough?

According to the London Guardian, nearly all married Muslim women have had a nikah, a religious marriage ceremony.

However, about 61% had not gone through a separate civil ceremony which would make the marriage legal.

If you have a religious marriage only, and the marriage breaks down, you may be unable to go to family court to divide marital assets, such as the family home and your spouse’s pension.

This trend of having a religious ceremony, but no civil marriage license, is becoming a problem as more people think having religious marriage ceremony is enough.

Florida Marriage Law

I’ve written about marriage validity, and the intersection between religious marriage and civil marriage before. First off, in order to be validly married in Florida, you need a license from the government.

No, you don’t get your marriage license from the DMV, but from the Clerk of the Court.

Getting a marriage license may seem like a trivial obligation, but if you want your religious marriage recognized in court, you must get a marriage license.

There is a fee for getting a marriage license, and that fee is reduced for attending pre-marital counseling. The license is valid for 60 days. The officiant at the ceremony must certify that the marriage was solemnized.

The certified marriage license must be returned to the clerk or an issuing judge within 10 days, and the clerk or judge is required to keep a correct record of certified marriage licenses.

Florida courts have repeatedly warned people that they cannot depart from the requirement of the Florida Statutes to have a license, otherwise the courts would be creating common-law marriages, which are not recognized here.

If you only have the religious marriage, but do not file for a marriage license, your marriage will not likely be recognized, and you cannot divorce, and cannot make claims for equitable distribution, or ask a court for alimony.

That can be a devastating surprise for many people.

Religious Only Marriages

Every religion has there own method of marrying. For Catholics, the celebration normally takes place within a Mass. In Judaism, there’s a marriage contract, a marriage canopy, and the breaking of a glass. In the Islamic nikah, there is a reading from the Qur’an, and the exchange of vows in front of witnesses.

Religious marriage without a license, is not only a major problem, but a growing problem.

Religious marriages are also easier to terminate than legally registered marriages, so marriage has become easy and divorce has become easy. It’s a disturbing trend.

Generally in Florida, regularly ordained ministers of the gospel or elders in communion with some church, or other ordained clergy, and all judicial officers, clerks of the circuit courts, and notaries public may solemnize the rights of matrimonial contract, under the law.

The Guardian article is here.