Palm Beach County residents may have heard of one of the most recent divorcing issues upon which the media has been commenting. Audiences from Boca Raton to Jupiter are following the bitter divorce battle regarding the religious education of a child.
While the mother was Jewish and the father Catholic, the parents decided to raise their daughter under the Jewish faith from birth. Issues regarding her religious background were never brought up during the marriage. However, the divorced father had his daughter baptized in a Catholic Church during one of his visitations. It appears that the parents in this case intentionally or unintentionally will use every instrument to upset the other in this heated battle.
Experienced divorce and family law attorneys in West Palm Beach and throughout Palm Beach County acknowledge that the courts are often reluctant to become involved with issues dealing with freedom of religion and first amendment rights.
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In an attempt to respect the best interest of the child, the courts are struggling with how involved they should be in faith/religious related issues. In this reported case from Chicago, the court temporarily barred the father from exposing his daughter to any religion, other than Judaism, until a final decision can be made.
Against court orders, the father then escorted his daughter to a Catholic Mass during one of his visitations. The enraged mother encouraged the courts to place the father in contempt. However, in the final court ruling, the judge granted Mr. Reyes’ freedom to use his visitation time as he chooses. Whether he decides to continue escorting his daughter to church during his parenting time is his right as the girl’s father.
The likely reason for the court’s ruling was that there existed no indication that the child was being harmed by being exposed to both faiths in this fashion. If a nexus or connection of harm to the child and the religious practice had been established, then the outcome may have been different. In any event, in this case the facts were not serious enough so that the court would infringe on the father’s right to expose his child to his own religious beliefs.