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Child custody case centers on parent's religious practice

When two Texas parents turn to a family court to resolve their custody differences, the outcome can be difficult to predict. An example is found in a recent case from another state that centered on different religious beliefs between two parents. Although not normally an issue that the courts would take interest in, this family experienced a far different outcome. Their child custody case went through appeals, and multiple children had to transition back and forth between two homes as a result.

An initial custody order placed the couple's five children in the primary care of their mother, with the father receiving visitation. The father is a devout churchgoer, while the mother does not share the same religious beliefs. The father sought legal custody of the three youngest children, asserting that their mother had allowed one of the older siblings to unduly influence the younger children against his religion.

The court sided with the father, and the mother took the matter through appeals. The higher court found that the lower court made the custody determination largely based on the religious aspects of the case. They reversed that decision, claiming that the lower court had abused its discretion in removing the children from their mother's care.

The outcome of this unusual child custody case has been lauded as a victory for both free speech and freedom of religion. However, parents in Texas and elsewhere should also view the case as an example of the unpredictable nature of family courts. When a custody battle moves through appeals over a lengthy period of time, the lives of the children involved can be tumultuous.

Source: The Washington Post, "Court shifts custody because mother let child "talk negatively about religion" to siblings (thus supposedly alienating siblings from father)", Eugene Volokh, Nov. 3, 2016

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