Young v. Holmes, Joint Custody, Ky COA Affirmed Order Of Religious School

Young v. Holmes, __ S.W.3d __ (Ky. App. 2009)


The parties share joint custody of their minor child and could not agree as to where the child should attend kindergarten.  The trial court held a hearing and found that it was in the best interests of the child to attend St. Athanasius School.  Young appealed.  Young argued that the order violates her First Amendment right to religious freedom and that the court could only appropriately order the child to attend St.Athanasius if it found that he had special needs that would require him to attend a private school. 

COA affirmed.  The trial court used the correct standard of best interests of the child and did not base its decision on religious interests.  Young had the burden to prove that “the decision of the trial court was based upon religious interests and such impropriety would not be presumed merely because the school selected had a religious connotation in addition to its academic offerings.”  Therefore, the order did not violate the First Amendment.  Further, the trial court was not required to find that the child had special needs prior to ordering that he attend a private school, since Holmes voluntarily undertook the additional cost of the child’s private education.  Miller v. Miller and Smith v. Smith, cited by Young for that proposition, addressed situations where the trial court had imposed upon a party the additional cost of private education, and thus were not controlling authority in the instant case.    

Digested by Sarah Jost Nielsen, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates