If you followed the celebrity divorce between actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, you have no doubt also heard the phrase, “spiritual custody”. But what does it mean, and how are spiritual custody disputes resolved?

Spiritual custody disputes sometimes take place between an interfaith couple with children who have filed for divorce. Whether or not the couple had previously agreed on a way to raise their children spiritually or teach them about religion, it is possible that they could disagree on their children’s spiritual upbringing during the child custody process. For example, one parent could refuse to take their children to a certain church or temple, while another parent may have their children participate in religious ceremonies without the other parent’s approval or knowledge.

Spiritual custody disputes are often extremely sensitive matters. When and if the issue goes to court, a judge should approach the matter without favoring any particular religious or spiritual tradition. Instead, a judge will, as with all other aspects of child custody, consider what is in the best interests of the child. Usually, the best interests of the child involve the child continuing whatever religious upbringing he or she has had so far and the child being exposed to both its mother’s and father’s religious beliefs as long as they do not mentally or physically harm the child.

If you are in a Washington State spiritual custody dispute, you may wish to speak with a Seattle child custody attorney about your case.


Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington