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Can Child Custody Decisions Be Based on Religiosity, Sexual History?

By George Khoury, Esq. on May 11, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Child custody decisions, in every state, look to what is in the best interests of a child. This requires looking at more than just what a parent can financially provide. The type of attention and upbringing a parent can provide will often be regarded as more important than the financial ability to provide. After all, a parent does not have to have physical custody to be legally required to financially provide for their children.

Frequently, issues regarding what's best for a child's upbringing will involve rather sensitive issues, such as religion, or a parent's sexual history. These matters can actually have an impact on a judge's decision regarding what is in the best interest of a child. However, that impact can range from nearly insignificant to crucial.

Religion and Child Custody

Despite there being a separation of church and state, when it comes to what is in the best interest of a child, courts will often find that being part of a religious community serves a beneficial purpose. While non-religious people may find this offensive, it is undeniable that church and religion provide individuals with a sense of moral right and wrong, community, belonging, and even friendship. A judge is likely to think that all of these will benefit a child during their formative years.

Also, if a child is already part of religious community, a parent that seeks to remove the child from the community may face the ire of the court, unless the child seeks the same and can express their own wishes sufficiently.

Parent's Sexual History

While it may be invasive to discuss sexual histories during a child custody negotiation or hearing, it can matter rather significantly. If one parent is shown to display high risk sexual behavior, this could weigh against the party being able to provide a safe home environment for a child, depending on the nature of the behavior. If the history is only history, rather than current or recent behavior, a judge is likely to disregard the history, unless it involves criminality.

However, these sorts of arguments are disfavored as they can lead to severe animosity and toxicity between co-parents. Additionally, depending on how the arguments and evidence is presented, this line of attack could taint the perception of the judge to be biased against the party raising the issue.

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