Home > Family > Denmark > 2001-09-25 - Supreme court of Denmark, n. 111/2001, u. 2001.2518.h - (...)

2001-09-25 - Supreme court of Denmark, n. 111/2001, u. 2001.2518.h - Jehovah custody-case

Family · Denmark · Custody · Religious upbringing

Custody and religious upbringing (jehovah’s witnesses)

Key facts of the case - The H and M had been married for a few years and had a daughter, B, born in 1994. At the time the mother (H) had been an excommunicated Jehovah’s Witness. H and M divorced in 1998 and soon after, H rejoined the Witnesses.
In the City Court of Hillerød, custody of B was granted to H. The case was appealed and in Eastern High Court, custody was granted to the father, M.
Now, both parents have steady homes. H has remarried to man who is also a member of the Witnesses and has begotten a son. M on the other hands has a new girlfriend. After the High Court decision, B spends 8 days with M and 6 days with H in a biweekly phase. B is a healthy child committed to various activities.
H seeks to reclaim her custody, however M argues that B is somewhat indoctrinated by her mother and in adult life, she will have difficulty in breaking free of the Witnesses. H refutes this claim and says she allows B to participate in red-letter days, celebrate Christmas and other various activities not allowed by her own religion.

Reasoning of the court - The Supreme Court gave the custody to the mother, H. However, there was dissent among the judges.
The majority concluded that although both parents are fully fit to take care of B, the main issue of religious upbringing is important, particularly in cases with Jehovah’s Witnesses, because the impact on daily life is so huge.
H was granted custody because she has repeatedly allowed B to perform activities that are not in line with her own beliefs. It is argued that because of this, H seems to have a greater understanding and a greater acceptance of the religious choices B may make later in life.
The dissenting judges, Hermann and Børge Dahl argue that although both parents are practically fit to take care of B, the fact that H even tries to teach B something about the Witnesses creates a distinct emotional fracture whenever she goes back to her father. The judges did not believe it is in the best interest of the child to have such diverging religious views among her parents even though H seems more tolerant of religious choices.