A mother asked for a South Florida attorney’s advice regarding the shared parental responsibility of her minor child. The mother and father divorced in a Fort Lauderdale divorce court six years ago and as part of their parenting plan the parties implemented both shared parental responsibility and a time sharing schedule. As part of their marital settlement agreement, the couple agreed to raise their minor child in the Jewish faith. However, when the father remarried a Catholic woman sometime after the divorce, he began exposing his child to the Catholic Religion.
The mother was concerned because it appeared the new religious experiences both confused and upset the child. First, the marital settlement agreement specified that the parents would share parental responsibility which means that the parents must cooperate on their selection of schools, doctors and even religious affiliations. Second, because the marital settlement agreement specifically stated the minor child would be raised in the Jewish faith the father’s conduct is in violation of the agreement and the court’s final judgment.
The mother could file a Motion for Contempt and Enforcement. This means that the mother would ask the court to coerce the father to stop violating the marital settlement agreement, thus in effect forcing him to comply with the terms of the agreement.
The mother could file a Petition for Modification requesting sole responsibility for decision making regarding her child. If granted, time sharing would remain the same; however, the mother would have the power to stop the father from exposing the child to other religions. In order to petition the court for modification she must prove that there has been a substantial and material change in the circumstances, as well as show that the change is in the best interests of the child.
The Court will uphold provisions in a marital settlement agreement regarding the upbringing of their minor child; so long as this agreement is in the best interests of the child.