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Divorce forgery highlights issue of religion in family law

It is a maxim in family law that every divorce is unique, and that is far from surprising, given the differences that exist in every family. In a certain instance, a couple might be able to end their marriage with relatively few or even no sticking points to negotiate and agree upon in a divorce decree. In another case, there might conceivably be very signficant matters to resolve concerning the division of assets, child custody, spousal maintenance or other issues.

One factor that is of key importance to many families is religion. That can be an issue going into a marriage or coming out of one. For example, a couple might seek to execute a prenuptial agreement that discusses the role that religion will play in the lives of their children in the event of a divorce. Negotiations during divorce might focus on the same thing.

Sometimes the subject of religion goes even beyond that, as evidenced by a recent story involving a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. That church requires a religious annulment as a prerequisite for a member to remarry.

To secure that, the man allegedly forged such a document, including both a judge's stamp and an attorney's signature. A criminal charge of forgery was subsequently brought against him.

That charge was ultimately thrown out following the advocacy of the man's legal counsel and his persuasive argument that the matter was between the man and the church, not the man and the criminal justice system.

In other words, the charge violated the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

The court agreed with that.

"Church and state are separate, thank God, in this country," the attorney stated following case dismissal.

Source: CBS, "Charges dismissed against man accused of forging divorce document," April 30, 2013

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