Interplay Between Religion and Divorce

Daniel Noffsinger - Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Before Carrie Bradshaw there was Helen Rowland. Rowland, a journalist at the top of the twentieth century, wrote a column in the New York World captioned Reflections of a Bachelor Girl. Rowland’s observations on the relief or lack of it in divorce are quite poignant. She writes, “When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that ‘they don’t understand’ one another, but a sign that they have, at last begun to.” She adds, “Nowadays love is a matter of chance, matrimony a matter of money, and divorce a matter of course.”

Same-Faith Divorces

It is with this playful backdrop that we approach the interplay between religion and divorce. Divorce in and of itself is difficult. When you factor in the faith of the spouses, challenges are on the horizon when one of the spouses seeks a divorce. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 69% of married people share the same religion as their spouse.

While Colorado courts are well-versed in civil divorce proceedings, they provide no relief to parties seeking a religious divorce. Religious attitudes towards divorce range from a total refusal (Roman Catholics) to permissible only if the husband consents (Orthodox Jews). In marriages that start out with spouses of the same faith, a conflict may arise if one spouse stops exercising the faith or converts to another faith. Determining the religious upbringing of children in these marriages often requires court intervention for resolution.

Different-Faith Divorces

The Pew Research Center survey further finds that since 2010, four-in- ten married people do not share the same religion as their spouse. Many of these marriages are made up of a Christian and a “none” - a religiously unaffiliated person. If these marriages end in divorce, the question of who gets to determine the religion of the child often becomes hotly contested.

Without a doubt, interfaith relationships are more common today than ever before. Of those in relationships living with their romantic partner and not married, 49% of those relationships are made up of people with different faiths.

Conflict of Religious Laws

Parents have the absolute right to direct the upbringing and religious education of their children. So, if both parents agree, the courts will not intervene in the religious education of their children. However, if the parents cannot agree, the Court will decide who makes decisions about the child's religious upbringing. Decision-making can be assigned to one parent, to both parents jointly, or to one parent or the other for different issues. The Court's main concern is assigning decision-making responsibility in a way that supports the "best interests of the child." A parent seeking to restrict religious upbringing by a custodial parent with decision-making responsibility must show harm to the child before the custodial parent’s constitutional right to determine the child’s religious upbringing will be restricted.

Contact a Colorado Springs Custody Dispute Attorney

If you are involved in a dispute with your spouse or other parent regarding the religious upbringing of your children or other custody issue, contact an attorney that specializes in divorce and family law. Noffsinger Law can help you understand your legal rights during custody dispute proceedings and protect your parental rights. Contact a Colorado Springs child custody dispute attorney today for a free initial consultation. Call us at (719) 368-3688 or visit our office at 545 E. Pikes Peak Ave., Suite 205 in Colorado Springs.