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Woman jailed for baptism, violating her child custody agreement

Child custody arrangements typically involve two concepts: legal custody and physical custody. The former refers to the rights of the parent to make decisions about a child's upbringing, as well as a parent's obligation to support the child. The latter, on the other hand, refers to how much time a child will spend living with a parent. Thus, a child custody arrangement may be set up such that both parents have a say in how the child is raised, even if only one parent has physical custody.

Of course, when divorced or separated parents have joint legal custody of a child, disputes may arise, just as they could in any parenting arrangement. Although it did not happen here in Colorado, one such dispute recently made national headlines. The dispute involved the baptism of a 12-year-old boy.

According to a news report, what happened is that the mother wanted her son baptized, but the father wanted to a chance to discuss the matter with his son and boy's mother before any decisions were made. Nonetheless, she proceeded with the baptism without the father's explicit endorsement, which evidently violated their co-parenting plan that was agreed upon as part of their divorce in 2010. For violating the plan, the woman was held in contempt of a court order and held in jail for one night.

Part of raising a child may involve decisions pertaining to a religious upbringing, and it is certainly not uncommon for people to disagree on religious matters. However, when divorced or separated parents share legal custody, any decisions about a religious upbringing may have to be made mutually, depending on the nature of their co-parenting plan. It is important to remember that a divorce agreement is a legally-binding contract. Like any violation of a divorce agreement, such as unpaid child support, there are legal repercussions for violating a court order. In order to avoid legal headaches, it is best for parents to work together to find solutions or consider a modification to custody arrangements.

Source: WATE-TV News, "Knoxville mother jailed, ruled in contempt after baptizing son," Mike Krafcik, April 30, 2012

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