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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

07 FEB 2012

RELIGION: Re N (A Child: Religion: Jehovah's Witness)

(Family Division; HHJ Bellamy, sitting as a judge of the High Court; 24 August 2011)

The parents of a 4-year-old boy separated. The mother was a Jehovah's Witness and the father sought to restrict the mother's influence on the child regarding her religion. The mother was raising the child in accordance with her faith, taking him to meetings, teaching him about the faith and said she would stop him from participating in certain events which went against her religion ie school assemblies, visits to other places of worship. She withdrew her child from a nativity play when she found out he had a part without consulting the father.  When the parents were together they celebrated Christmas and birthdays as a family, the mother was now not willing to do so. The father claimed the mother's commitment to her religion had increased since the separation and it was now overwhelming and extreme, he was concerned the child would be over-exposed and that he wouldn't be free to make his own decisions about his faith.  The guardian was concerned that the child would become isolated and the effect of the clash of lifestyles would have on him.  

A shared care arrangement was approved and acted as one way of guarding against the risk of one parent's religion predominating. The parents agreed to sign a consent to medical treatment form in view of potential issues re blood transfusions stating that the mother does not give her consent to the child receiving a blood transfusion but that the father is able to consent and each parent should be notified immediately of any non-trivial medical treatment. It was ordered that the mother will not take the child on house to house ministry, the child will spend Christmas and birthdays with his father, the mother will pass all celebration invitations to the father so the child will not miss out. Both parents to involve the child in their religions by attending church/kingdom hall, neither parent to actively teach the child on Christian beliefs. Neither parent should prevent the child from taking part in school events.

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