Earlier I wrote about the new parenting plan for North Dakota and the fact that it is too vague regarding domestic violence.
It has since come to my attention that parents who profess to be atheist are being denied custody because of their beliefs. Read:
Carson v. Carson, 401 N.W.2d 632, 635–36
(Mich. Ct. App. 1986) (quoting trial court as opining that it “was a little bit distraught in finding that there was no particular affiliation [held by either parent] with a church,” because “[p]robably 95 percent of the criminals that I see before me come from homes where there’s no . . . established religious affiliation,”
Sharrow v. Davis, Nos. 244043, 245117, 2003 WL 21699876, at *3
(Mich. Ct. App. July 22, 2003) (noting that “[father] never attended church and his older children were not baptized,” that “[father] felt [the children] should experience many religions and choose one when they were older,” and that though “[mother] did not attend church regularly, she attended periodically and would take all of the children with her”);
Goodrich v. Jex, No. 243455, 2003 WL 21362971, at *1
(Mich. Ct. App. June 12, 2003) (noting “that [father] has a greater capacity and willingness to continue to take the parties’ daughters to church and related activities,” and that trial court had been “concerned with [mother’s] belief that her minor daughters are capable of making their own decisions whether to attend church”);
Sims v. Stanfield, No. CA98-1040, 1999 WL 239888, at *3–*4 (Ark. Ct. App. Apr. 21, 1999)
(noting that lower court based award of custody to father partly on father’s having “‘rekindled’ a relationship with his church,” “regularly attend[ing] services,” and providing “a Christian home,” but declining on procedural grounds to review this);
In the case I cited earlier, the father was denied custody even though domestic violence in the mother’s and step-father’s home was proven. The judge admonished the mother during hearings for not being forthcoming in her testimony. It was proven that the mother constantly demeans the father and his family. It was proven that the mother constantly frustrates the father’s visitation. It was proven that the mother refuses to keep the father appraised regarding the child’s medical care and refuses to give access to medical records. It was proven that the mother has had several violent relationships with men before finally marrying. Still, the judge denied the father’s petition for custody.
When all these things are considered, one must wonder what the judge was thinking when he made his determination. Let’s look at the situation. Is it advisable to leave a child in a home where domestic violence is present? Answer: No. Is it advisable to leave a child with a parent who is a proven liar? Answer: No. Is it advisable to leave a child in a home where the custodial parent demeans the other parent and tries to alienate the child? Answer: No. Is it advisable to leave a child in a situation where the father is denied visitation other than what is exactly spelled out, even though visitation is to include other liberal and reasonable visitation. Answer: No. Is it advisable to leave the child with a parent who refuses to share medical information regarding the child. Answer: No. Is it advisable to leave a child in an environment where the mother goes from one abusive relationship to another? Answer: No
Now the other side. Is it advisable to award custody of a child to a parent who has never had violence in his home? Answer: Yes. Is it advisable to award custody to a parent who is not a liar? Answer: Yes. It it advisable to award custody to a parent who refuses to hear negative comments about his ex-wife whether or not the child is present and who makes sure the child knows that both parents love her? Answer: Yes. Is it advisable to award custody to a parent who is willing to make sure the child is involved with extended family members on both sides of the relationship? Answer: Yes Is it advisable to award custody to a parent who shares all medical information with the other? Answer: Yes. Is it advisable to award custody to a parent who has had exactly one relationship with another person and married that person. Answer: Yes.
The mother in the case does not take the child to church or provide any religious training. The child’s great-grandmother takes her to church and Sunday School.
The father indicates that he is an atheist. He does not attend church, however, his wife does and takes the child with her during visitation.
Taking all the facts into consideration what was the judge thinking? Can it be he made his decision based on the fact that the father professes to be an atheist? This was the one and only negative fact in the father’s life that came up in the hearings. If this turns out to be the case his decision should be overturned and the case heard by another judge. The law says we cannot be discriminated against because of our religion. I believe that religion is important in a child’s life but, whether atheism is a religion or not it should not ever be used as a reason to deny custody to an otherwise fit and wonderful parent.