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Church Property Disputes/Denominational Splits

If your congregation has decided to sever its relationship with a denomination, whether it be for differences over theological issues or other areas of disagreement, significant legal issues over property ownership will arise. One such legal issue in a denominational split is in dispensing with the real and personal property that is typically held in trust by the denomination to determine ownership of the local congregation’s property. This is a topic tied closely to state law interpretation of trust clauses and the application of either “hierarchical deference” or “neutral-principles of law.” The application of either source of law is based on whether the local congregation is a “congregational” or “hierarchical” religious body.

The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC have experience in church property disputes and denominational splits and are aware of the issues that need to be resolved. We are frequently engaged by local congregations seeking to leave their denominations throughout the United States. Contact us today to speak with an experienced attorney about your case.

We can help you meet your goals.

The attorneys of Dalton & Tomich, PLC have the experience and the knowledge to work with you to develop a legal solution that helps you accomplish your goals.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Yes. For example, The Episcopal Trust, known as the Dennis Canon, is very different from the Presbyterian and Methodist Trust clauses. Therefore, we evaluate each clause under separate state law cases and statutes.

Yes. Often, the best solution for both parties is to avoid expensive and contentious litigation. If possible, we will help you come to a solution that meets your needs and keeps your church out of court.

Yes. Sometimes, there is no way to avoid litigation, even among churches. We are experienced litigators who will listen closely to your needs, and fight for your church’s rights.

Yes. We can help form your new corporate entity, work with you in creating your articles of faith, your bylaws and help prepare your application for tax exempt status.

The ownership of property is a complicated issue when a local congregation decides to sever its relationship with a denomination. There are many questions that need to be answered and documents that must be gathered as part of the property trust evaluation process. We have compiled a list of questions and documents to be addressed prior to engaging counsel.