Not every Massachusetts family chooses to affiliate with a church or set of religious beliefs. In some families, the parents of shared children may actively practice different religions or be members of different religious institutions. Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals have the freedom to choose what religion, if any, they will incorporate into their lives.

While religious freedom is a right enjoyed by adults, children are often expected and required to participate in the religious practices of their parents. Despite their protestations, a child may be taken to church every Sunday, enrolled in various faith-based classes, and expected to achieve religious advancement over time. When parents agree on how faith will be incorporated into their child’s life, this may be a relatively straightforward practice. When parents cannot find a common ground on matters of faith, religion may become a contested parenting issue.

A parent who has legal custody of their child may participate in the conversation of how religion will be worked into their child’s life. If a parent lacks legal custody of their child, they may not have grounds to assert whether their child should or should not be involved in a particular system of faith. However, when involvement in a religious organization may harm a child, a parent may be able to petition to have their child’s participation curtailed.

Getting to the bottom of a contested child custody battle over religion can be difficult and can feel personal for those involved. The support of a trusted family law attorney may help them ease their concerns over how best to meet their children’s best interests.