Tag: Child custody vaccines

Covid-19, Child Custody, and Good News on Coronavirus

Parenting is tough enough when you’re in quarantine. But for parents who are divorced and shuttle their kids between two households as part of a child custody arrangement, deciding how to proceed with quarantines related to the coronavirus can be even more challenging.

Child custody covid-19

A Virus Among Us

“Today” recently profiled parents in Florida about how they are coping. Rachelle Dunlevy, a mom of two from Indialantic, Florida, says since her ex-husband lives nearby, they have agreed to stick with their current custody schedule, for now. Megan O’Connor, whose daughter is about to turn three, has been divorced for almost a year, and says she and her ex-husband are doing the same.

“My ex is a public health professional, so he is aware of social distancing, but also of the importance of our daughter having access to both of her parents during such a fragile time. Currently, we are both in town so we are maintaining our current schedule. We’ve decided to do that because we view ourselves as a family unit — though we are no longer together romantically, our daughter is intrinsically a part of each parent.”

But what do parents do when there’s conflict over whether or not to pause a custody arrangement during the pandemic? When it comes to making decisions about coronavirus and custody, communication is key.

The first and foremost concern should be the health of your family. It is important to communicate respectfully and be cooperative with any schedule changes, even if it results in less parenting time for you and more parenting time for the other parent.

Understand that you and your co-parent may have different views about how to approach this pandemic and neither of you may be wrong or right, so it’s important to be calm. Your child is also navigating a pandemic and a change in their everyday routine and you do not want to add to their stress and anxiety — a united front between the parents is best.

The number one priority should always be the well-being of the children and the coronavirus doesn’t care about courts and agreement.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility.

Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities. Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

Good News About Coronavirus

As new cases of SARS CoV-2 (aka Covid-19) Coronavirus are confirmed throughout the world and millions of people are being put into quarantine, there is some good news too.

Most people with COVID-19 recover. Estimates now suggest that 99% of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 will recover and some people have no symptoms at all.

Children seem to be infected less often and have milder disease. According to the CDC, the vast majority of infections so far have afflicted adults. And when kids are infected, they tend to have milder disease.

The number of new cases is falling where the outbreak began. During his speech declaring the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, the director-general of the WHO pointed out that “China and the Republic of Korea have significantly declining epidemics.” That’s a good thing and suggests that efforts to contain the spread of this infection can be successful.

We have the internet! We can practice social distancing and preserve our professional and social connections.

This a good test run for much more serious and deadly outbreaks such as the Spanish Flu and the Ebola virus. Our response to future pandemics should improve because of what we are doing now.

The coronavirus epidemic is a global problem for those infected and those trying to avoid it. But amid all the doom and gloom, there are some positive stories, positive messages and reasons to remain hopeful.

The Today article is here.

 

Measles, Vaccines, and Child Custody

August means school has started in Florida. There is also currently a measles outbreak going on in Florida, and many parents are not vaccinating their children.The recent death of Rotem Amitai, an airline flight attendant who contracted the killer disease on a flight, means the issue of measles, vaccines, and child custody is spreading again.

Getting to the Point

Measles starts like a common cold, with runny nose, cough, red eyes and fever. Often there is a characteristic rash. But measles is not always mild; it can cause pneumonia and encephalitis (a brain infection), both of which can be permanently disabling or even deadly.

From January 1 to August 8, 2019, 1,182 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 30 U.S. states. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

The most at risk are children who have not yet been fully vaccinated. Two measles cases are in Florida already: one in Broward and the other in Pinellas County.

The reason children are most at risk is simple: Increasing numbers of parents are not vaccinating their children. It wasn’t always this way. Some state’s records show that during the 2004-05 school year, vaccination rates for kindergartners in one county were above 91%. During the 2017-18 school year, the same county had an immunization rate of 76.5%.That puts their children at risk, and the rest of us too.

Florida Child Custody

In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility. Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.

Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child. In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate, are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

Florida Vaccinations and Child Custody

My article on the relationship between vaccinations and child custody in Florida has been cited before. In Florida, a court can carve out an exception to shared parental responsibility, giving one parent “ultimate authority” to make decisions, such as the responsibility for deciding on vaccinations.

There are at least two cases in Florida dealing with the decision to vaccinate and custody, and they conflict! In one case, a Florida court heard the conflicting positions on immunization and decided that it would be in the child’s best interest to allow the anti-vaccination Mother to make the ultimate decision regarding the child’s immunization.

Ten years later, a different Florida court heard conflicting testimony, and decided it was in the child’s best interest to award the pro-vaccination Father ultimate responsibility to make decisions regarding the minor child’s vaccinations.

The decision to vaccinate raises interesting family law issues. It is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in Florida.

A Dose of Reality

We’ve gotten so used to being disease free. People forget measles was a killer disease which took the lives children. Since the risk of catching measles dropped after it was eliminated twenty years ago, we have begun to think we can’t catch it, or that the vaccines which have protected us are worse than the disease.

Parents’ decisions not to vaccinate their children, because of various reasons, harms society’s immunization against these diseases. It can potentially harm weaker populations.

Although there is no express case law determining custody on the decision to vaccinate, with the school year underway in Florida, the outbreak of measles in two Florida counties now, the decision to get the recommended vaccines may impact your child custody case.

The Ynet news article is here.

 

Joint Physical Custody

Former NFL wide receiver, Hank Baskett, answered his former Playboy model wife’s divorce petition last week, and is asking for joint physical custody of their two children. What is joint physical custody, and is it something you should ask for in Florida?

Penalty Flags

Baskett is a former wide receiver who played in the NFL for the Vikings, the Eagles and the Colts. While at the University of New Mexico, he was a leading wide receiver and earned all-academic honors.

Baskett married Playboy model Kendra Wilkinson in 2009. Wilkinson and Baskett were co-stars on Kendra, a reality TV series following Wilkinson’s life. They have co-starred on another show, Kendra on Top, since June 2012.

His wife announced her intention to divorce on Instagram. A few years ago, she received bad press when she criticized people who had a problem with a photo she posted to her Instagram account of her daughter, stating:

“Wow by my last post I just exposed all you sick f**ks… [m]an, this world is more f**ked up than I thought, I’ll go ahead and go back to my vacation while we run around naked n free.”

According to People, in the former NFL player’s filing submitted Friday, Baskett cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce after 9 years of marriage according to court documents obtained by The Blast.

Mirroring his wife’s filing, Baskett listed their date of separation as Jan. 1, 2018, and requested joint legal and physical custody of their two children.

Many people are surprised to learn when they file for divorce or custody in Florida that joint legal and physical custody is not available in Florida.

Florida Shared Parental Responsibility

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In 1979, the first joint custody statute was enacted in California. The joint legal custody law promoted more paternal involvement after divorce.

In 2008, Florida modified its custody laws to get rid of outdated and negative terminology about divorcing parents and their children to reduce animosity.

The law did that by deleting the definitions of the terms “custodial parent” or “primary residential parent” and “noncustodial parent” and creating a definition for the terms “shared parental responsibility, “parenting plan”, and “time-sharing schedule.

Shared parental responsibility, is similar to joint physical and legal custody, and is a relationship in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.

Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Florida’s public policy comes from the literature proving the importance of a father’s contributions to a child’s development and a child’s attachment to a father, gender roles within families are shifting, and the documented loss and alienation experienced by noncustodial parents and children.

Custody Touchdown

The former Playboy model’s filing came hours after she confirmed in an Instagram post that the couple had chosen to split.

“Today is the last day of my marriage to this beautiful man. I will forever love Hank and be open but for now we have chosen to go our own ways.”

The People article is here.

 

Child Custody and Choosing Religion

The mother was Christian and the father a Muslim, but she converted to Islam when they married. After they separated, the mother reverted to Christianity. When parents share or have joint child custody, who decides the child’s religion? A New York appellate court just gave the answer.

Choosing My Religion

A Brooklyn couple divorced in 2009 with one child. Their settlement agreement gave them joint legal custody, and the mother had primary physical custody.

The agreement made them consult with each other about the child’s religion, but did not specify which religion the child would be raised. The mother taught the child Christian values and practices.

The child complained the father was pressuring her to adopt Muslim practices and threatened to abcond with her to his native Morocco if she failed to follow Muslim practices and customs.

The child asked the mother to call the police and school personnel. The mother filed for sole legal custody, and the father petitioned to enforce visitation and to enforce a purported oral agreement that the child would be raised as a Muslim.

Florida Custody and Religion

I have published an article on the intersection of religion and custody before, especially when that intersection relates to harm to the child.

For example in one area there is a frequent religious controversy: whether to give a child their mandatory vaccinations.  Usually, religion is used by the objecting parent as a defense to vaccinating children.

Whenever a court decides custody, the sine qua non is the best interests of the child. But, deciding the religious upbringing of a child puts the court in a tough position.

There is nothing in our custody statute allowing a court to consider religion as a factor in custody, and a court’s choosing one parent’s religious beliefs over another’s, probably violates the Constitution.

So, unless there is actual harm being done to the child by the religious upbringing, it would seem that deciding the child’s faith is out of bounds for a judge.

Ironically, that may not be the rule all over Florida. Different appellate courts in Florida have slightly different takes on the issue, and the question of whether a trial court can consider a parent’s religious beliefs as a factor in determining custody has been allowed.

The Brooklyn, New York case involved the modification of an existing joint custody order.

In Florida, the person seeking modification of custody must show both that the circumstances have substantially, materially changed since the original custody order, and that the child’s best interests justify changing custody. Additionally, the substantial change must be one that was not reasonably contemplated at the time of the original judgment.

Losing My Religion

Back in Brooklyn, the Family Court granted the mother’s to modify joint custody, and give her sole legal custody but granted the father liberal visitation, including on all major Muslim holidays.

The parties’ inability to agree on the child’s religion, the change in the child’s relationship with the father, her fear of his displeasure for not being a “true Muslim,” and her belief that he’d kidnap her to Morocco, constituted changes in circumstances.

The appellate court held that awarding the Mother sole decision-making authority with respect to religion was in the child’s best interests because the father’s actual or perceived insistence that the child follow Islam and threats to abscond to Morocco had a serious adverse effect on the child’s relationship.

The opinion in Baala v. Baala is here.

 

Vaccinations and Custody

In Michigan, a judge reduced a mother’s child custody rights after she refused to vaccinate her son. What is the relationship between custody and vaccinations?

Michigan’s Vaccination Case

In Michigan, Oakland County Judge Karen McDonald ruled Wednesday that Rebecca Bredow will no longer have primary custody of the boy but will have joint custody with her ex-husband, James Horne.

Horne wanted to vaccinate the boy, and Bredow agreed to do so last November. But she didn’t. She says vaccinations go against her religious beliefs.

Custody and Vaccinations

Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.

Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends.

In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate, are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective

Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

Florida Vaccinations

I’ve written about the decision to vaccinate and custody in Florida before.

In Florida, a court can carve out an exception to shared parental responsibility, giving one parent “ultimate authority” to make decisions, such as the responsibility for deciding on vaccinations.

There are at least two cases in Florida dealing with the decision to vaccinate and custody, and they conflict!

In one case, a Florida court heard the conflicting positions on immunization and decided that it would be in the child’s best interest to allow the anti-vaccination Mother to make the ultimate decision regarding the child’s immunization.

Ten years later, a different Florida court heard conflicting testimony, and decided it was in the child’s best interest to award the pro-vaccination Father ultimate responsibility to make decisions regarding the minor child’s vaccinations.

The decision to vaccinate raises interesting family law issues. It is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in Florida.

Vaccination and Jail

Back in Michigan, Judge McDonald found Bredow in contempt of court last week and ordered her jailed. She also granted temporary custody to Horne and ordered the boy to be vaccinated. He received four immunizations on Monday.

Bredow told reporters Wednesday she was “in shock” by the court’s decision. Her attorney plans to appeal.

Can Low Intelligence Cost You Custody?

Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler are fighting to prove to the state of Oregon that they can raise their children. Oregon removed their boys, saying the parents are too mentally limited to parent. Can your intelligence be a factor in determining child custody?

Fabbrini, 31, and Ziegler, 38, lost custody of their older son, Christopher, shortly after he was born. Five months ago, the state took their second child, newborn Hunter, directly from the hospital. Both are now in foster care.

“I love kids, I was raised around kids, my mom was a preschool teacher for 20-plus years, and so I’ve always been around kids,” Fabbrini said. “That’s my passion. I love to do things with kids, and that’s what I want to do in the future, something that has to do with kids.”

No abuse or neglect has been found, but each parent has a degree of limited cognitive abilities. Rather than build a network of support around them, the state child welfare agency has moved to terminate the couple’s parental rights and make the boys available for adoption.

The case lays bare fundamental questions about what makes a good parent and who, ultimately, gets to decide when someone’s not good enough. And it strikes at the heart of the stark choices child welfare workers face daily: should a child be removed or is there some middle ground?

Florida Child Custody

The Oregon case involves child protective services operating through dependency court. A child is generally found to be dependent if the child is found to be abandoned, abused, or neglected by the child’s parent or parents or legal custodians.

In Florida family court cases, as opposed to dependency court cases, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

I’ve written about child custody cases before. Generally, when parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court. At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child.

Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of 20 statutory factors, and one equitable catch-all factor, affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

Although the parent’s intelligence or IQ score is not specifically mentioned in our custody statute, the statute requires courts to consider the mental and physical health of the parents.

The Oregon Case

Back in Oregon, the parents are struggling against a system that feels impersonal, unyielding and inscrutable.

“They are saying they are intellectually incapable without any guidelines to go by,” said Sherrene Hagenbach, a former volunteer with the state agency who oversaw visits with the couple and Christopher from last June through August.

According to documents provided by the couple, psychological evaluations tested Fabbrini’s IQ at about 72, placing her in the “extremely low to borderline range of intelligence,” and Ziegler’s about 66, placing him in the mild range of intellectual disability.” The average IQ is between 90 and 110.

“I have a learning disability, but it’s very, very mild,” Ziegler said. He understands that he learns more slowly than some, but says “everybody learns at their pace.”

Neither currently works, but they have steady housing: a three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home owned by Ziegler’s parents, who live out of state. Ziegler has a driver’s license. Both have standard high school diplomas.

Across the country, a national study estimates that somewhere between 40 percent and 80 percent of parents with intellectual disabilities lose their parental rights.

The Oregon Live article is here.

 

Whooping Cough and Custody

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

California just announced a pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic. The overall incidence has increased as more people apply for vaccine exemptions. I have a new article on vaccination disputes in child custody cases.

A total of 9,935 cases were recently reported to the California Department of Public Health, the highest number in 70 years. Already, one infant has died from the disease, and cases are reported in schools across the state.

The California Department of Public Health recommends the pertussis vaccine (Tdap), but many parents object to vaccinations. Some objectors assert their individual liberties. Some parents are risk averse to the potential impact of vaccinations. Celebrity anti-vaccination campaigns confuse many, and some parents hold deep religious beliefs against immunization.

Religion is not an express factor for courts to consider in Florida custody cases. It is interesting how courts balance the highly sensitive issues of custody and religion.

There are two vaccination cases in Florida, and the facts in each were very similar. In both cases, the parents shared custody. Both involved chiropractors involved in their children’s health care. And, in both cases the health care professional parent opposed vaccinations. Surprisingly, the judgment in the two cases came out differently.

My new article briefly examines Florida’s parental responsibility statute, including the concept of ultimate authority, the two Florida cases in which the decision to vaccinate a child was an issue brought to trial, and traces the development of religion as a factor in parental responsibility cases in Florida.

The new article can be read here.