When parents of different faiths share custody in Oklahoma, the question of which religion the children should follow is often difficult. The answer to faith questions can involve whether parents have joint custody, how well the parents cooperate and whether parents are committed to protecting the child’s best interest as defined by law.
Parents who have joint custody both have the right to make legal decisions for the child in areas including religion, education and health care. If a parent has sole custody, a child may spend time in physical custody of each parent but the parent with sole custody is the primary decision maker with regard to religious practices, education and health care.
Generally, the courts in Oklahoma leave the question of religion and religious activities up to the parents to decide and coordinate. According to the Oklahoma Advisory Guidelines for Standard Visitation that were created as a guide for judges, each parent should be given special consideration to make the children available to attend family functions including religious holidays. When parents of different faiths create a visitation schedule, that specific guideline should be taken into consideration.
Creating a Parenting Agreement
When both parents observe different religions, they should discuss the matter and come up with an agreement on how their separate religions can be included in their children’s lives. Working together as parents to ensure that the best interests of your children are met should be a goal that takes precedence over your conflicts with each other.
Your agreement should allow each parent to share the religious holidays that they find most important with their children and, if they fall on the same dates, to alternate years or split the day between parents. Both parents should have the right to explain the tenets of their religious beliefs to their children. For the children’s well-being, neither parent should speak negatively about the other parents’ religion. To do so is very confusing for the children and, according to experts, could have the effect of confusing the children and causing them to reject both religions.
When You Cannot Agree on Faith Questions
If you cannot reach an agreement that is in the best interests of your children, you may want to consider mediation. A mediator is a neutral third party who is trained to provide guidance and assist in resolving issues. With that assistance, it may be possible to come to an agreement that will resolve your differences of opinion.
In Oklahoma, you have the right to ask the court to appoint a parent coordinator to assist in resolving your religious differences. The coordinator is a neutral third party who assists the parents in resolving issues and has the authority to decide disputed issues in the best interests of the children when faith questions arise.
When Courts Intervene
Many times, the court is asked to decide because the parents cannot come to an agreement. Courts generally must balance the best interests of the children against the parents’ freedom of religion under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Parent have the right to teach their faith to their children. The courts cannot compel parents to take their children to specific religious activities, nor can they prohibit them without a showing of specific harm. Specific harm includes physical, mental, or emotional damage to the body or mind.
If specific harm can be shown, the court will intervene for the well-being and in the best interests of the child. For example, if a parent withholds medical treatment that is detrimental to the child because of his or her religious beliefs, the court can assume custody and order immediate medical treatment to protect the child’s health.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Divorce Attorney
The legal issues surrounding religious differences between parents are complex. If you cannot reach an agreement, you should contact a Tulsa divorce attorney for assistance. Divorce of Tulsa Law Office offers free consultations on child custody issues. Call 918-924-5526 today to schedule an appointment.