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Religious views of judge at issue in custody appeal

The religious and personal beliefs of a district court judge were the main issue in the appeal of a child custody decision that was recently heard by a three judge panel in a state appeals court. On appeal, the father of the children cited comments made by the judge during the original trial stating that she agreed with the mother as to a specific religious belief.

The belief at issue was the relative roles of men and women in a religious Christian household. The father had asserted that it is appropriate for wives to obey husbands, but his soon-to-be-ex-wife disagreed, stating that she wanted full custody in part to distance her children from that sort of teaching. The father appealed, saying that the judge's agreement on that matter lead to an improper child custody decision.

This case points to a few issues that are influential in any divorce or family law case - religion and popular opinion.

Religion, of course, is impactful when one or both spouses hold strong religious beliefs that either conflict with each other or conflict with the law. In this case, the conflict between the father's religious beliefs and the mother's beliefs was one of the reasons cited by the mother to argue against shared custody. This can be a major problem for many couples during a divorce and can point to larger disagreements about the best way to raise their children. The fact of the matter is that even couples who disagree often must still participate in co-parenting, and that means coming to some sort of understanding about how to deal with these issues.

At the same time, popular opinion about these types of religious and social issues can also come into play during a child custody proceeding, potentially influencing a judge to favor one parent over the other. Judges in custody hearings should always rule in a way that protects the best interests of the child, and this case shows how societal norms can play into that evaluation.

Source: Star Tribune, "Bible verse prompts appeal of Stearns County custody case," Jeremy Olson, April 11, 2013.

Information about the child custody process in Nevada is available on our Las Vegas family law site.

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