Thursday, February 20, 2014

Court Says Parents Who Lost Custody of Child Have Only Limited Control Over Child's Religious Exposure

In In re T.K(OH Ct.. App., Feb. 19, 2014), an Ohio appeals court held that when legal custody of a child is given to the child's grandparents, there are limits on the extent to which the child's mother can dictate the boy's religious upbringing.  The boy was originally placed with the grandparents when he tested positive for marijuana at birth, and custody was made permanent 9 months later with the parents' consent.  However the boy's mother objected to the grandparents raising her son in their Catholic faith. An Ohio statute (RC 2151.353(A)(3)(c)) provides that when legal custody is transferred, parents retain the residual "privilege to determine the child's religious affiliation."

The court of appeals upheld the trial court's implementation of the mother's preference by an order providing that  "the grandparents not engage the child in church activities or rituals designed for ... membership, including those required for membership into the Catholic Church."  The mother had wanted a broader order prohibiting the grandparents from in any way, teaching, indoctrinating, or actively exposing the child to any religion, Catholic or otherwise. The court however focused on the statute's use of the term "affiliation" and agreed with the trial court that exposure to religion is not tantamount to affiliation.