Kentucky Bankruptcy Law

Counsel with Care

Sole custodian’s rights to direct religious training

The Kentucky Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether a parent with sole custody can reach into the other parents visitation time and direct that the child attend a specific church service. The Court in Wireman v. Perkins, 2006-CA-001981-ME (July 13, 2007)(to be published) found that “statutes like KRS 403.330 as according custodians, such as Wireman, the right to make the major decisions affecting the child’s education and religious training, but not as authorizing them to interfere permanently or unduly with the non-custodian’s visitation.” Id. at 5 & 6.

In this case, David Wireman had been awarded sole custody of his daughter, J.W. who was born in 1996. The original award had been for joint custody, but the mom, Lori Perkins, developed a bit of a drug problem and lost joint custody. Mom still had “reasonable” visitation, but apparently David and Lori could not agree on what reasonable meant from 2003 to 2005 when the trial court decided that it meant one evening a week and every other weekend. The Court notes that the parties were back in court SEVERAL times from November 2005 until September of 2006 making complaints of non-compliance on visitation. Apparently Lori, David or both disagreed with the trial judges definition of “reasonable” also.

In his bid to make Lori take J.W. to Fern Creek Christian Church, David relied on KRS 403.330 which states in part:

    [e]xcept as otherwise agreed by the parties in writing at the time of the custody decree, the custodian may determine the child’s upbringing, including h[er] education, health care, and religious training, unless the court after hearing, finds, upon motion by the noncustodial parent, that in the absence of a specific limitation of the custodian’s authority, the child’s physical health would be endangered or h[er] emotional development significantly impaired.

The Court distinguished David’s demand for J.W. to go to his church EVERY weekend from prior cases that required the non-custodial parent to temporarily alter their visit for religious classes of a short duration. In this case, the burden upon Lori’s time share would be too great if she were ordered to take her daughter to David’s church every weekend and so the Court denied David’s appeal. David will simply have to find an alternate way of teaching his daughter about the love, forgiveness, peace and mercy of Jesus Christ then by dragging her mother into court and spending a great deal of time and money on the conflict in trying to control what the mom and daughter do during their visits. Does anyone else see the irony here?

The practical lesson from this case is for divorced, divorcing or separated parents to recognize that one cannot control every aspect of their child’s life anymore. Actually, one never could fully control their life, but the illusion of control is definitely shattered in these situations. Staying in turmoil and conflict with your child’s other parent will accomplish little than more pain. So, be very careful that the issue is important enough, find a lawyer that will help you discern this rather than automatically taking your case (and money), and then try to resolve it out of court first. Many issues will not be worth going that next step to court. Finally, setting an example by your behavior of the beliefs you want your child to adopt will, by far, be the most effective method of parenting.

July 14, 2007 - Posted by | Family Law, Life & Law, Parenting

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