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.
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.