Child Custody and Timesharing Where A Parent Practices an Unorthodox Religion

A celebrity divorce in which one parent practices an unconventional religion has recently focused public attention on the role religion may play in family court cases determining child custody and visitation.

Modern America (including Florida) is religiously diverse, and more than a few religions are well-represented among parents.

Parents’ religious affiliations and views may change over time. And sometimes parents are less concerned about differing religious views before children enter the picture than they are afterward.

For the most part, Florida family law is neutral regarding religious diversity, and parents’ religious beliefs and affiliations do not influence family court child custody rulings or divorce court timesharing and visitation schedules.

Each parent in Florida is generally free to have their child participate in their religion and worship during their timesharing and visitation with their child.

In general, a parent in Florida will only be barred from sharing their religion with their child if the other parent shows that that religion wll be harmful to their child.

For example, Mother is a chiropractor by profession. Her religion teaches that the body is naturally, fully equipped for self-healing … and prohibits followers from taking medicines or vaccinations.

Mother qualifies for an exemption so that their child need not be vaccinated for school.

Father objects to this though and seeks ultimate decisionmaking authority over their child’s health care in general and the child’s vaccinations in particular.

At trial, after hearing expert testimony from several physicians, the Florida family court awards Father ultimate decisionmaking authority over their child’s health care, based on the conclusion that vaccinations are in their child’s best interests.

Implicit in the Florida divorce court’s holding is the view that withholding vaccinations from their child could very well be harmful to their child.

On appeal, the Florida family court’s award of ultimate decisionmaking authority to Father is upheld.

Read more in this local West Palm Beach area case.