A teenaged girl was caught in the midst of a battle between parents who had religious differences.

A teenaged girl was caught in the midst of a battle between parents who had religious differences. The court ordered that the girl should continue to live with her father in the religious community where she grew up. The Court also ordered that the girl spend time regularly with her mother and that she attend a mainstream school.

The parents joined a religious community 30 years ago into which the girl was born. Later on, the mother left the community and moved in with a new partner. The mother alleges that the community was a “destructive cult”, exposed the girl to violence and compromised her education. Furthermore, the mother said that the community taught that women must submit to a man’s discipline and accepts polygamy.

An independent family consultant was appointed to assess the community. It was found out that there was no girl in the community a year 12 or tertiary qualification. The community’s leader said that indeed the Bible decreed that women should obey their husbands, but that did not entail physical violence. The family consultant reported that removing the girl from the community would cause her distress.

The girl was homeschool and through the Year 9 NAPLAN tests it was found out that her numeracy skills were below the minimum standard, and so was her writing score. However, upon interview, Justice Watts found the girl ''delightful, mature and verbally articulate''. Thus, the Court ordered that the girl attend mainstream school.

Father wins custody over religious differences

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