How Could the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect Child Custody Cases?

Published On: September 10, 2021Categories: Child Custody

Hudson Valley Area Child Custody LawyerThere is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a deep division within the United States citizenry. Mandatory shutdowns, virtual learning for students, and mask mandates have all generated great debate among people across the country. Perhaps there is no greater disagreement than there is over the COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccine debate has grown from whether a person should or should not get the vaccine to whether or not a person is required to get the vaccine, as governments, businesses, and other entities have begun requiring employees to get vaccinated. Recently, that debate hit an Illinois family law courtroom and it is just a matter of time before New York family courts could also face the issue.

Illinois Case

Last month, during a virtual hearing that was only supposed to be about child support, the family court judge overseeing the case randomly asked the mother if she had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The mother responded that upon the advice of her doctor, she had not received it because she has had adverse reactions to other vaccinations in the past. The judge responded that since she had not been vaccinated, she could not see her 11-year-old son until she was. The boy’s parents have had shared custody of the child since 2014. The father has been fully vaccinated.

The mother appealed the ruling and weeks later the judge reversed his decision and recused himself from the case. The intense media attention his original ruling made led to the discovery that the judge had asked parents in other cases he was handling if they were vaccinated and had also ordered some parents and children to be vaccinated.

Precedent Coming?

Judges here in New York and other states have applied vaccine inoculation to criminal cases. In New York, some defendants have been ordered to get vaccinated as a condition of bail or as part of their rehabilitation sentence. In other states, judges have granted lesser sentences to defendants who get the vaccine or they make the vaccine a condition of prison release.

Until now, the issue has not appeared in family courts. The anticipation by many family law attorneys, however, is that this could be just the beginning of a floodgate of cases. Not only could child custody and parenting time hinge on whether or not a parent is vaccinated, but there is also the issue of whether a child who qualifies for the vaccine should receive it when parents disagree.

Contact a Hudson Valley Area Family Lawyer

Co-parenting after divorce can be difficult under many circumstances and it is not uncommon for parents to disagree about what is best for their child. The COVID-19 vaccine and the legal implications it may now bring in child custody cases needs the skill of an experienced Rockland County child custody attorney. Call Law Offices of Robert S. Lewis, P.C. at 845-358-7100 to schedule a free and confidential consultation and find out how we can help.