The Volokh Conspiracy

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Father Can't Be Ordered "to Comply With the Cultural Norms of Hasidic Judaism" During His Visitation Time with Children

So holds a New York appellate court.


From Thursday's N.Y. appellate decision in Cohen v. Cohen:

We agree with the father that, by directing him to comply with the "cultural norms" of Hasidic Judaism [which were practiced by the parties during the marriage] during his periods of parental access, the Supreme Court ran afoul of constitutional limitations by compelling the father to himself practice a religion, rather than merely directing him to provide the children [age about 5 and 7 at the time of the order] with a religious upbringing (see Cohen v. Cohen, 177 AD3d at 852; Weisberger v. Weisberger, 154 AD3d at 53). While the court referred to the "cultural norms" by which the children were raised, the testimony at the hearing made clear that the "cultural norms" referenced were that each parent would comply with the religious requirements of Hasidic Judaism. Under this Court's decisions in Weisberger and on the prior appeal, the court's directive that the father himself comply with these religious practices was an unconstitutional modification of the religious upbringing provision in the judgment of divorce, which must be reversed (see Cohen v. Cohen, 177 AD3d at 852; Weisberger v. Weisberger, 154 AD3d at 53).

I think this is right, though I disagreed with the appellate court's earlier decision upholding an earlier trial court order in the same case, in which "the father was directed to provide the children with exclusively kosher food and to make 'all reasonable efforts to ensure that the children's appearance and conduct comply with the Hasidic' religious requirements of the [mother] and of the children's schools as they were raised while the children are in [his] physical custody.'" For more on that, see this post.