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Religious Disputes Between Parents

In this day and age, there are now more couples with different religious beliefs that are getting married. However, the downside is deciding which beliefs their children should follow.

Yes, your child has the right to choose when he or she comes of age. However, parents have to decide for their children until then.

The state of Texas passed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) in 2015, which prohibits the government from meddling with religion. It also states that, under this law, it is illegal for individuals to use religion to ignore civil rights protections.

Likewise, the First Amendment of the US Constitution gives Americans the right to exercise whatever religion they are accustomed, to or have chosen later in life. This goes for every citizen in all 50 states.

That said, how will parents—both married and divorced—deal with choosing a religion their kids should follow?

If the parents are still married

The parents essentially have to agree on their kids’ religious upbringing. If they don’t, they can consult with a counselor about how they can approach this matter. But if the kids are old enough to decide on their own, they should let them choose which religion they want to adopt.

If one parent has primary custody

The court won’t determine the children’s religion, especially if they are young. But usually, children will adopt the beliefs of whoever has primary custody of them. 

If divorced parents have joint custody?

This can be tricky because the children will be exposed to multiple religious beliefs and practices. But, according to the law, courts aren’t allowed to meddle. What’s advisable is to let parents expose their kids to their respective religions.

Again, courts won’t dictate what religion the children should be following, and neither should the parents. Why? Because religion can shape a child’s personality and well-being as they grow older.

What’s the exception?

Several laws state that religious practices shouldn’t cause harm to a person—that includes children. That said, courts may have the power to not favor either parent’s religion if any evidence of harm has been proven.

Harming others using religious practices is also illegal under Texas’ RFRA law. Its provisions ensure that the law or religion in general shouldn’t be used for misuse or to disregard human rights.

The solution

For married parents who can’t decide what to do, it may be best to speak with a counselor or a religious leader to find the best course of action for your kids.

For divorced parents: Speak with a lawyer to negotiate terms, especially if you aren’t in good terms with your ex-spouse. Conflict within the family can also be detrimental to children’s upbringing.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at

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