Understanding Spiritual Custody: Deciding Religious Upbringing After Divorce

Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes privately settled their divorce after a five-year marriage and one child, six-year-old Suri. Many allege that at the center of their divorce talks and child custody agreement was the issue of what religious influences their daughter would have as she grew up – Cruise is a noted member of the Church of Scientology, while Holmes was raised Roman Catholic.

The divorce has raised important questions about interfaith divorces, children’s rights when it comes to spirituality, and the role of religion in child custody.

Spiritual Custody and the Best Interests of the Child

Child custody is already perhaps the mot complex and painful aspect of divorce. Parents must decide – with the help of mediators, family, and possibly the court – where their child will live, how their child will be raised, how their child will receive financial support, and how often they will see their child. Some couples in interfaith marriages have an extra hurdle to overcome – who will have spiritual custody of their child?

As with all other issues, courts decide spiritual custody on the basis of what is in the best interest of the child or children. A judge should absolutely never place one religion or spiritual belief above another, and should only rule against a religious practice if it somehow is proven to harm the psyche or physical health of that child.

Staying on the Religious Path They Have Been On

How does one even approach the issue of which religion a child should be brought up with in the wake of an interfaith divorce? Luckily, in many cases, the parents of the children involved have already had a plan for the child’s upbringing – a plan that either focuses on one of the two religions or that blends the two religions in a balanced way. In many cases, a judge will decide to continue the child on the spiritual path that he or she is already on; for example, if a child has a Jewish parent and a Lutheran parent but has always attended a Lutheran church, the judge may rule that that practice continue.

Speak with a Seattle Child Custody Attorney

It is absolutely possible to find a solution to spiritual custody disputes – but often only with the help of mutual respect, compromise, and a central focus on the spiritual wellbeing of your children. If you need help with your interfaith divorce and child custody proceedings, speak with a Seattle family lawyer at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today.

Molly B. Kenny
Founder and Principal Divorce Attorney
Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny