What Happens when Divorced Parents Disagree on Child Vaccinations?
Whether you believe that vaccinations help children avoid harmful and even fatal diseases or you’re worried about potential side effects that could be even more damaging, you have the right, as a parent, to make decisions about the health and wellness of your children. Of course, this decision-making process can become a lot more difficult following a divorce, especially if parents are at odds on the issue of immunization.
Unfortunately, there is no middle ground in this debate. Children either receive immunizations or they do not. What happens when divorced parents can’t agree on the best approach to keeping their children healthy and safe? Two recent cases in Michigan show what could happen, but parents need to understand their legal rights before proceeding.
Michigan Child Vaccination Cases
First, it’s important to understand that Michigan requires vaccines for school-age children, but it is one of 17 states that allows exemptions for vaccines based on religious beliefs. In the case of Lori Matheson versus ex-husband Michael Schmitt, the father wants their child to be vaccinated while the mother does not.
During this ongoing legal battle, Matheson has claimed a preference to avoid vaccinations because she believes they could trigger underlying autoimmune disorders in the family’s medical history. She also opposes vaccinations on religious grounds due to reports that they are created using aborted fetal cells. Thus far, she has not been successful in obtaining a favorable ruling.
Then there is the case of Rebecca Bredow versus ex-husband James Horne – another case where the father is seeking vaccination and the mother is against it. In this case, the court ordered vaccinations and Bredow failed to comply, for which she was sentenced to seven days in jail, served five, and was subsequently subjected to reduced custody rights.
The Role of Custody
Before you try to take a dispute over vaccinations to court, you need to know that custody plays a role. In the case of joint legal custody (as opposed to physical custody), both parents must agree on major decisions involving shared children.
If one parent has sole legal custody, he/she is allowed to make these decisions without input or assent from the other parent. It’s important to fully understand your custody agreement so you know what your legal rights are when it comes to making decisions about your children.
Handing the Decision Over to the Court
Does any parent truly believe a court can make a better decision about the health and wellness of their children? Of course not. And yet, if parents can’t come to an amicable conclusion on their own, it is possible that the decision could end up in the hands of a family court judge.
When a judge rules on child vaccinations, as Oakland County Circuit Judge Kathleen McDonald will in the Matheson case, and already has in the Bredow case, there is very little recourse for the parent that doesn’t get a favorable outcome. Appeals are possible, but they may constitute little more than a waste of time and money.
If you and your ex-spouse simply can’t agree on the question of vaccinations and you feel that going to court is your only option, you’re going to need the advice and representation of a qualified lawyer from The Gucciardo Law Firm. Contact us at 248-723-5190 today to discuss your case.
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