Father Appeals Child Custody Case for Judicial Religious Bias

Determining the custody of children in a divorce is often the most emotionally charged and difficult decision a couple needs to make. It is often determined by a court applying many factors to assess the best arrangement for the children. Ultimately, what is most important is what is in the child's best interests. It is therefore important for the court to remain impartial and not favor one parent or the other for arbitrary reasons when making such decisions.

A recent divorce case focusing on child custody has presented questions concerning the role of judges in such proceedings. The wife testified that she was seeking to prevent her children from adopting a Baptist belief that women must submit to what their husbands tell them. The husband in the case is Baptist. The judge in the case stated that she remembered a similar belief from her wedding, and that she didn't approve of it. The parents also disagreed on whether their kids should have cell phones, and the judge sided with the wife, saying that her young daughter has one and it is normal. The judge granted primary custody of the couple's three children to the wife, prompting the husband's appeal on the grounds of judicial bias.

Although divorcing parents are free to come to an agreement governing their child custody arrangement on their own, such determination is typically left to a court. There are many arrangements a court can decree, but in this case the judge awarded primary custody to the mother. Primary custody means that the mother will be the custodial parent and the children will live with her primarily, while the father will be the non-custodial parent and will retain visitation rights as well as legal custody, which is the right to make decisions concerning a child's health, education and well-being.

In making such a decision the court takes into account many factors, but the most important in this case seems to be religious and cultural considerations. The judge made comments favoring the mother's views on the father's religious beliefs about the role of a wife, as well as the mother's view on the children's use of cell phones. This is not the only factor that was considered, but it likely played a role in the judge's decision.

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

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