Thursday, March 10, 2016

Divorce Decree Restrictions Violate Mother's Free Exercise Rights

In Black v. Black, (WA App., March 8, 2016), a Washington state appeals court held that a trial court imposed improper conditions on the non-custodial parent in a divorce action.  Charles and Rachelle Black had three children whom they raised in a conservative Christian home and sent to religious-based schools.  After 17 years of marriage, Rachelle informed Charles that she is a lesbian, and two years later filed for divorce. The court's final parenting plan designated Charles as the primary residential parent, awarded him sole decision-making as to the children's religious upbringing and required Rachelle to refrain from having further conversations with the children regarding religion, homosexuality, or other alternative lifestyles. The appeals court reversed, saying:
While the best interests of the children is a trial court’s paramount concern ..., here there is no indication that Rachelle’s prior speech related to her sexual orientation or her religious views ... would cause harm to the children if such speech or conduct occurred in the future. Therefore, we hold that the restrictions are an unconstitutional burden on her freedom of speech and her free exercise of religion.