Absent agreement of both parents, neither parent sharing joint legal custody nay cause or allow the children to receive any religious sacrament or education. So held Supreme Court Nassau County Justice Jeffrey A. Goodstein in his January 13, 2017 decision in DK v. AK.
The parties had two children together (currently ages 6 and 5). The parties were divorced in 2016 by a judgment which incorporated, but did not merge, the terms of their 2015 Stipulation of Settlement. Pursuant to the Stipulation, the parties shared joint legal custody of the children, with the mother having residential custody. Here, the father had brought this post-judgment motion for an order prohibiting the mother from causing or allowing the children to be baptized, or to receive any religious sacrament, or a religious education in any faith other than Judaism, without his written consent.
The father argued that there had been no issue with regard to the parties’ joint custodial relationship until the mother’s decision to baptize the children. The father further argued that the children were raised in the Jewish faith, as was allegedly agreed upon by the parties prior to their engagement. The mother acknowledged that the parties’ son had a traditional Bris, performed by a Mohel (performer of ritual circumcisions). The mother also acknowledged that the parties had a naming ceremony for their daughter although she contended that it was the paternal grandfather who wanted the baby naming and scheduled it, so she took over planning it.
The father further alleged that prior to their separation, the parties “actively” raised the children in the Jewish faith by celebrating the Jewish holidays. He contended that the children now accompany him to synagogue when he attends. Further, he set forth that a few months ago, the children started attending Hebrew school, with the mother’s consent.
The parties recently attended a mediation session when the mother wanted to bring the children to Catholic events. As reported by the parties, the mediator took the position that the children could be raised as both Jewish and Catholic, to which the father strongly disagreed. Shortly after the mediation session, the mother notified the father of her intent to baptize the children and invited him to attend the ceremony. The father further argued that a baptism is tantamount to changing the children’s religion without his consent.