Sharing child custody and parenting decisions after a divorce can be difficult. The Court of Appeals of Tennessee recently considered the legal aspects involved in these situations in a January 31, 2017 opinion. The case reached the court after the father appealed a lower court order awarding the mother sole decision-making authority regarding their four children’s religious upbringing and designating that the children specifically attend the mother’s church.
After the parties divorced in 2008, their parenting plan designated the mother as the primary residential parent and gave both parents joint decision-making authority with respect to the children’s upbringing. The parties subsequently became engaged in contentious litigation concerning the children, particularly with respect to their religious upbringing. The court appointed a guardian ad litem for the children and required the parents to submit to a psychological evaluation. After a hearing, the court modified the parenting plan, giving the mother sole decision-making authority over the children’s religious upbringing.
Despite the parenting plan, the father continued to take the children to his church, sometimes for several hours at a time, which caused the children anxiety. In response, the mother filed another motion for the court to modify its order, reflecting that the father should not force the children to practice his religious beliefs. The court then entered an order providing that the children exclusively attend the mother’s church.