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Divorce and Religion in Georgia

“We never discussed it before we were married.” “Who would have thought this issue would be so contentious?” These are just examples of how many individuals going through divorce and custody battles in Georgia react when confronted with the issue of how religion will impact their divorce. In the multicultural society in which we live, the instances of marriages between those of diverse cultural and religious background have increased. Although this is a fact to be lauded, this fact also means that as divorce lawyers we have also seen more instances of divorce between those of diverse religious backgrounds. When this occurs, one of the primary questions that is inevitably raised during the proceedings is: “Whose religion should the children practice?” Although facially, this question may seem simple, it is often the primary area of contention during a couple’s divorce.

In Georgia, in cases in which a divorcing couple is awarded or agrees to share joint legal custody of their child or children, there must be some mechanism put in place by which the parents may jointly come to final decisions regarding the upbringing of their children. Generally, this entails determining which parent will have final decision making authority over each of four major issues: education, health, extracurricular activities, and religion. O.C.G.A. § 19-9-3 (a)(8). In most cases, the parents share these final decision making responsibilities, with one parent taking on two issues, and the other parent taking on the remaining two.

The problem arises when one or both parents have strong religious convictions, to the point that he or she refuses to allow the other parent to share or expose the children to his or her faith. It is preferable for both parents to resolve their disagreement in a mutually agreeable manner that also serves the best interest of the children involved. However, this is often not possible, especially when the topic involved is one as emotionally charged as ones faith. With this being said, if you are contemplating divorce, or if you are currently going through a divorce, and you believe that the issue of religion may play an important role in your divorce and child custody matter, make sure you advise your attorney of this immediately.

If you have yet to choose an attorney, make sure you choose a divorce lawyer that has experience with contentious custody matters, especially those involving disputes concerning the determination of who will be the final decision maker on matters such as religion. This is important, because if your spouse is awarded final decision making concerning religion, or if you agree to allow your spouse to make final decisions concerning your child’s religion, you may lose the right to expose your child to you differing religion, especially if your soon to be ex-spouse complains of your actions. See Greene v. Greene, A10A1463 (2010). To ensure that your interests are adequately represented, contact the attorneys at Meriwether & Tharp today. Our team of Atlanta divorce attorney will work hard to achieve the results that are in the best interests of your children.

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