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Parental Responsibility and Religion

by Wes Cowell; updated 29 January 2016 -- suggest a correction


Parenting Plans (court-approved agreements) and Allocation Judgments (court ordered awards) must declare who will make decisions about a child's religious upbrining.  If parents can't can't produce an agreement the court must allocate the responsibility to one or the other (or somehow divide it between them).  Need advice?  Call, leave your info, or schedule a consultation.


The Problem:  Some parents use religion as a tool by which to try to gain an advantage.  Imagine a parent who claims the children have to go to Friday Mass at the church or Jumu'ah at the Mosque, Saturday Shabbat at Temple, and Sunday School followed by Church . . . especially when they spend the weekend with the other parent.  You get the idea:  when lives take different paths some parents experience a new-found interest in religion that interferes with the other parent's connection with the children.  On the other side of the coin some parents declare that they never DID like all the religion in the marriage and only acquiesced to keep the peace in the household, "but now that we're divorcing there's no way she can FORCE me to take the kids to Sunday School and church on MY weekends . . .can she?'


More mundane issues frop up, too:  should the child attend a particular religious school?  Should a child be baptized?  Should a child study a particular religion?  Should a child study Yiddish, Arabic or Latin?  What about a parent who wants to take a trip to the Old Country "so the children can experience their religion;" but the Old Country doesn't follow the Hague Convention's protocols aobut returning abducted children?


The Solution:  Illinois' Parental Responsibility law calls on parents to try to come to an agreement.  750 ILCS 5/602.1(d).  If the parents agree, the court must allow the agreement unless it is unconscionable.  750 ILCS 5/610.2(d)  If the parents cannot agree, the court allocates parental responsibilities according to the child's best interests.  Those responsibilities are labeled as parenting time, education, health, extra-curricular activities . . .  and religion.  


When it comes to religion, the law tells the court to not wade into any quagmires and to use the parties' past conduct as a compass to guide future decision-making:


750 ILCS 5/602.5:  Allocation of parental responsibilities:  decision-making.


(a)  Generally.  The court shall allocate decision-making responsibilities according to the child's best interests. . . . 


(b)  Allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities.

Unless the parents otherwise agree in writing . . . the court shall make the determination.  The court shall allocate to one or both of the parents the significant decision-making responsibility for each significant issue affecting the child.  Those significant issues shall include, without limitation, the following:


. . .


(3)  Religion, subject to the following provisions:


(A)  The court shall allocate decision-making responsibility for the child's religious upbringing in accordance withany express of implied agreement between the parents.


(B)  The court shall consider evidence of the parents' past conduct as to the child's religious upbringing in allocatng deciion-making responsibilities considered with demonstrated past conduct in the absence of an express or implied agreement between the parents.


(C)  THe court shall not allocate any aspect of the child's reliegous upbringing if it determines that the parents do not or did not have an express or implied agreement for such religious upbringing or that tehere is insurfficient evidence to demonstrate a course of conduct regarding the child's religious upbringing that coul serve as a basis for any such order.


750 ILCS 5/602.5




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