Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sagar v. Sagar case brief

Sagar v. Sagar case brief summary
781 N.E.2d 54 (2003)

Plaintiff, a wife, sought a divorce from defendant, her husband, in the Middlesex Division of the Probate and Family Court Department (Massachusetts). The trial judge ruled that a religious ceremony could not be performed on the parties' child until she was of sufficient age to determine whether to undergo the ritual, absent a written agreement between the parties, and granted the wife physical custody. The father appealed the judgment.

The father argued that the order concerning the religious ritual violated his right to free exercise of religion and that the trial judge erred in granting the wife physical custody over the recommendation of a guardian ad litem that no designation of a primary physical custodian should be made.


  • The appellate court held that, because neither parent demonstrated a compelling State interest justifying intervention, the trial judge's order concerning the religious ritual would be affirmed, as it intruded least upon both parents' fundamental rights while remaining compatible with the child's health. 
  • The husband failed to demonstrate a compelling State interest for performing the ceremony on the child, as evidence was lacking that failure to perform the ceremony would cause the child significant harm by adversely affecting the child's health, safety, or welfare. 
  • The wife did not establish that performing the ceremony would subject the child to physical or psychological harm. 
  • The appellate court held that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in awarding joint legal custody to the parents and designating the wife's residence as the child's primary residence.
The judgment was affirmed.

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