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  • How the Covid Pandemic Impacting Divorce and Custody

    Anyone interested in how the Covid pandemic is impacting relationships, divorce, and custody cases, read Holly Ellyatt’s feature article “Arguing with your partner over Covid? You’re not alone, with the pandemic straining many relationships” in CNBC.

    Covid Custody

    I am quoted in the story, which examines how disagreements over Covid restrictions, child vaccination and even the very existence of the virus have seen some relationships pushed to breaking point, according to family law experts and psychologists:

    Ron Kauffman, a Board-certified marital and family attorney based in Miami, told CNBC he has also seen “a sharp increase in disputes between parents arguing during the pandemic.”

    The disputes often fall into three categories, Kauffman said: “Appropriate quarantine, following mask mandates, and vaccinations.” And they manifest in arguments about timesharing or visitation; i.e. the amount of time each parent spends with their child or children, he added. “When parents are separating or already separated, Covid has become a nuclear bomb to frustrate someone’s timesharing.”

    Child Custody and Vaccines

    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.

    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.

    Ellyatt also discusses the well-known fact that the divorce rate has increased during the pandemic, how children can become a particular source of conflict and anguish in a break-up and the argument for vaccinating children being more complex than for adults, and the issue of Covid vaccines for children becoming another area of conflict for some parents.

    The CNBC article is here.

  • Messy Divorce in Mesopotamia

    A messy divorce is underway in Mesopotamia. Florida is a no-fault divorce state. But, in states and countries where fault must be proven to obtain a divorce, Iraq is making headlines after a newlywed husband filed for divorce because of the song his wife played at their wedding.

    50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

    Some are calling it the most urgent divorce in the history of Ur. News reports show that a husband is seeking to divorce his wife because at their wedding party the bride played one of the most provocative and popular songs to flow out of the Euphrates river valley.

    According to the Gulf News, the Wife chose the song “Mesaytara.” The title translates to ‘I am dominant’ or ‘I will control you.’  The lyrics are even more provocative and include:

    “I am dominant; you will be ruled under my strict instructions; I will drive you crazy if you looked at other girls on the street; Yes, I’m dominant; You’re my piece of sugar; As long as you’re with me, you’ll walk under my command.”

    The song is performed by Lamis Kan a popular singer from Egypt. The song appears to be the main reason behind the couple’s divorce at the wedding.

    The official ‘Mesaytara’ music video is available here.

    The bride was reportedly dancing to the rhythm of the song, which the groom and his family considered a provocation. Therefore, the groom entered into an argument with the bride and her family, following which he ended up divorcing her. The incident took place in Baghdad, but is rattling all of ancient Babylon.

    Florida No Fault Divorce

    I have written about the causes of divorce before. The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce.

    So, if your spouse has committed fraud, adultery, or worse, wants the band to play the “Baby Shark Dance” at the wedding party, you don’t need to allege that as grounds for divorce.

    The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your spouse’s political activism. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

    Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like collaboration or weakening the revolutionary spirit.

    No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

    Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

    You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’

    Remarkably, this latest divorce out of Iraq is not even the first time that Lamis Kan’s “Mesaytara” led to the divorce of newlyweds in the Middle East. Last year, a Jordanian man broke up with his finance during their wedding celebrations after she played the song.

    According to a video circulated on social media last year, the young man was heard screaming at his wife, who posted a picture of him kissing her hand, along with the song.

    The song exposed the husband to an embarrassing situation in front of his friends and family, who stated that he was a “happy rabbit” instead of an “unhappy lion”.

    In yet another incident, Lebanon witnessed a similar incident years ago due to the song “I love you Donkey”. According to local media reports, A groom divorced his wife at the wedding after she danced to the song.

    The groom said that the bride told him to prepare a surprise for him in the next song in a bid to show that she “loves a donkey”. The groom said that he felt great anger after hearing the song, which prompted him to divorce his bride immediately without hesitation.

    The Gulf News article is here.

  • Upcoming Speaking Engagement on Interstate and International Jurisdiction

    Honored to be asked to speak on interstate and international jurisdiction at the 2022 Marital & Family Law Review Course. The program is live this year at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center from January 21, 2022 to January 22, 2022.

    Limited rooms are still available and an additional block of rooms was just made available at the nearby Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista. The prestigious Certification Review course is one of largest and most popular CLE presentations, and is a partnership between the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the AAML Florida Chapter.

    Interstate Child Custody

    Family law today frequently involves interstate child custody, interstate family support, and The Hague Convention on international child abductions.

    Parents are increasingly moving from state to state and country to country for various reasons. Whether children are moved by parents wrongfully or not, that moving makes interstate and international child custody complicated. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, and The Hague Convention on Child Abduction, can work together in those cases.

    Florida and almost all U.S. states passed the UCCJEA into law. The most fundamental aspect of the UCCJEA is the approach to the jurisdiction needed to start a case. In part, the UCCJEA requires a court have some jurisdiction vis-a-vis the child.

    That jurisdiction is based on where the child is, and the significant connections the child has with the forum state, let’s say Florida. The ultimate determining factor in a Florida case then, is what is the “home state” of the child.

    International Child Abductions

    I have written about the Hague Convention before. All family lawyers have to become more familiar with the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, also known as The Hague Convention on Child Abduction. This international treaty exists to protect children from international abductions by requiring the prompt return to their habitual residence.

    The issue of international child abductions is also a fast-moving area of law. The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in a case less than two years after issuing its last Hague Convention opinion.

    The Hague Convention applies only in jurisdictions that have signed the convention, and its reach is limited to children ages 16 and under. Essentially, The Hague Convention helps families more quickly revert back to the “status quo” child custody arrangement before an unlawful child abduction.

    Interstate Family Support

    The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act is one of the uniform acts drafted by the Uniform Law Commission. First developed in 1992, the UIFSA resolves interstate jurisdictional disputes about which states can properly establish and modify child support and spousal support orders. The UIFSA also controls the issue of enforcement of family support obligations within the United States.

    In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which required all U.S. states adopt UIFSA, or face loss of federal funding for child support enforcement. Every U.S. state has adopted some version of UIFSA to resolve interstate disputes about support.

    Certification Review Course

    It is a privilege to be asked to speak on interstate jurisdiction and international child abductions at the annual Marital & Family Law Review Course again. The annual seminar is the largest and most prestigious advanced family law course in Florida. Last year’s audience included over 1,800 attorneys and judges from around the state.

    The program is live this year, will not be broadcasted, and space is limited.

    Register for the remaining spaces here.

  • Child Support and the 8,000 Year Travel Ban

    Family laws are ancient and modern. Over the years, wise judges have learned to maintain the status quo by preventing parents from leaving the country during a case. But one Australian father, who allegedly owes millions in child support, just received an 8,000-year travel ban. This travel ban prevents him from leaving the holy land until the year 9999 in his ongoing international divorce.

    Israel Travel Ban 2

    Thou Shall Not Leave the Jurisdiction

    Noam Huppert, a 44-year-old citizen of Australia was married to an Israeli woman and they have two young children together. The family court in Israel issued a “stay-of-exit” order against Noam, sometimes referred to in Israel as a “Tsav.” He apparently cannot lift the travel ban order – and leave the country – until he pays his outstanding child support payments.

    “The total in the year 2013 was roughly 7.5 million shekels (roughly $3.34 million)”

    Israel’s laws regarding child support may be ancient, but why 8,000 years? It has been reported that placing the travel ban’s expiration date of 9999  in the court order was probably because it was the highest possible date that fit in the field and he owed a lot of child support.

    The US State Department regularly includes a warning about travel. The civil and religious courts in Israel actively exercise their authority to bar certain individuals, including non-residents, from leaving the country until they pay their debts or other legal claims against them are resolved.

    The US State Department also warns travelers that the US Embassy is unable to cancel the debt of a US citizen or guarantee their departure from Israel when they face a travel ban from leaving the country until debts are resolved.

    Mr. Huppert, who works as an analytical chemist for a pharmaceutical company, told the Australian news service NewsAU that Israeli courts had ruled he owed 5,000 shekels per month for each child until they turned 18.

    Florida International Divorce

    I’ve written about international divorce issues before. International divorce frequently involves understanding various issues in foreign laws, and especially, jurisdiction. Jurisdiction involves questions about who sues whom, where do you sue, how do you sue for international divorce, and what country’s laws apply.

    Which country’s laws apply can be tricky, and even well represented clients can end up owing big. Recently a British court ordered the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, to pay his ex-wife Princess Haya bint al-Hussein more than $728 million in one of the largest divorce settlements ever handed down by a British court.

    Rules against wrongfully abducting or retaining children in a foreign country, or leaving the jurisdiction, is a problem in every divorce – especially in international cases. One of the ways courts in Florida prevent child abductions and secure the payment of child support is travel bans.

    So, in any proceeding in which there is a parenting plan involved, if there is a risk that a parent may remove a child from the state or country, or simply conceal the whereabouts of a child, courts have a lot of options at their disposal.

    The powers of Florida courts to prevent the wrongful removal of a child can be as simple as ordering parents not to remove the child without the notarized written permission of both parents and a court order, limiting travel to Hague Convention countries.

    In addition, Florida courts can require parents to surrender the child’s passport, place the child’s name in the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program of the United States Department of State and/or post a bond or other security as a financial deterrent to abduction.

    But parents can also lose their travel privileges in the United States for owing unpaid child support. For instance, the U.S. Department of State issues passports to U.S. citizens for foreign travel. If a parent owes more than $2,500 in past-due support, the Department of State automatically denies any application for a U.S. passport until the past-due child support is paid. This includes requests to renew, replace or add pages to an existing passport.

    Woe to the shepherd who abandons the flock

    In Israel, the family court in a divorce case can issue a ban on the children or a parent leaving the country when one of the parents requests it. The reason a ban can be issued by a court in Israel is because of the fear that one of the parents will take the children abroad and never return. This is especially true in a country such as Israel, with many immigrants.

    Israeli courts can also issue the travel ban when a husband refuses to give his wife the “Get”, or as in the case of the Australian father, when a father refuses to pay, or is late on, the monthly children’s support.
    It is possible to leave by legal means if a travel ban is in place. Similar to other jurisdictions, a father would have to provide guaranties and guarantors in order to leave the country.

    Israel’s government allows you to check if you have a travel ban on their website to avoid a court ordered travel ban from interfering with your travel.

    The Australia News Corp article is here.

  • Christmas and Holiday Timesharing

    Christmas and the holiday season mean lots of timesharing with the family. The divorce and family law firm of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. will be closed on December 24th for the Christmas holiday. We will re-open at 9AM on Monday, December 27th. We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

    Christmas Timesharing

    Before the arrival of Christmas is the time to resolve child custody and timesharing problems so you can enjoy your family on the holidays with minimum stress. Below are suggestions to make your holiday timesharing issues a little easier:

    • Alternate. Some families alternate the holiday every other year. If you get the kids this year, next year will be the other parent’s turn. Having a regular plan to fall back on can eliminate the potential for what is fair.

    • Be flexible. An easy holiday schedule for everyone may require some changes from the normal visitation schedule.

    • Be respectful. You may not want to be friends anymore, but you need to figure out how to communicate with your ex without all the emotional baggage.

    • Don’t mix issues. Do not bring up unrelated issues which could make a problem free Christmas dinner impossible. Set aside your differences until after the holiday season.

    • Pick your battles. Christmas may even be more important to you than Easter is to your ex-spouse. Don’t fight just for the sake of fighting.

    • Protect the children. Your children’s memories of Christmas morning should be about family, food and fun. They should not be forced to witness you and another parent arguing.

    • Plan. Start talking about the holiday visitation schedule sooner rather than later, the longer you wait the harder it can be.

    Going through a divorce during the holidays is always stressful. But the weather has cooled and the kids are on vacation. Try to make the holidays the best time of year.

  • Cheap Online Prenups

    A segment aired on the ABC television show Shark Tank about a company selling cheap online prenups. There is no question a contract can be done cheaply online – especially when no lawyers are involved.  But lawyers  hired to create, or challenge, or defend real world prenuptial agreements can tell you if the cheap, online prenups are worth it.

    Cheap Prenup

    “He who represents himself, has a fool for a client”

    No one likes to read the fine print on websites they visit. But, maybe you’re the kind of person who is comfortable getting a medical diagnosis from WebMD! Even if you are, you may want to avoid unpleasant surprises and look through the website’s “Terms of Use” (the agreement every user must agree to and abide by in order to use a website or service).

    Websites may advertise that their online legal services and prenuptial agreements are prepared by “family lawyers.” However, if you look at the website’s Terms of Use, they may likely reveal that the prenups they are selling you – which will govern years of alimony payments, the division of all your property, tax consequences, and your life after marriage – were created without any “legal advice.” Or my personal favorite: no law was considered about your situation when drafting your prenuptial agreement.

    Prenuptial agreements are important documents. So, if you don’t care that your cheap, online prenup did not take into consideration any law, let alone any changes in the law, or that any of the information is current, a cheap online prenup may fit nicely next to your online medical diagnosis.

    Florida Prenuptial Agreements

    I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for tech billionaires, celebrity actors and rock stars. Prenups are about much more than just resolving who gets that expensive Montana ranch acquired during a marriage.

    Any couple who brings any personal or business assets (or debts) into their marriage can benefit from a prenuptial agreement. They are important to have in place before a couple starts investing in businesses, buying properties, and accumulating mountains of debt.

    But just having a prenup is not sufficient. That’s because prenups are frequently challenged in court. Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement is enforceable.

    Florida adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The UPAA requires that all premarital agreements be in writing and signed by both parties. It is enforceable without consideration other than the marriage itself.

    Couples wanting to sign one can enter into a premarital agreement with respect to their rights and obligations in any of their property, whenever and wherever acquired or located; their right to buy, sell, use, transfer, or otherwise manage and control their property and the disposition of their property if they separate, divorce, die, or any other event.

    Because prenuptial agreements may be challenged in court, Florida courts must consider things such as fraud, duress, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, and whether there was any financial disclosure.

    Good, Cheap, or Fast? Choose Two

    Prenuptial agreements are very technical and one size does not fit all. They are particularly important to protect your future income, children from another marriage, potential inheritances, businesses and your business partners, other assets, and your sources of income.

    The last thing that you want to do is wonder if you are protected by a cheap, online prenup; one which may not be enforceable on its face. As mentioned above, Florida adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The UPAA is Florida’s recognition that there is not always uniformity in how prenups are enforced, challenged and defended.

    There are many nuances in the law of prenups which can differ from state to state. For instance, some provisions in a prenup which are available in one state – such as the ability to waive temporary alimony – may not be available in another state. There may also be differences between states about the sufficiency of the financial disclosures required.

    There are also questions about privilege and confidentiality. In Florida, communications with your attorney are generally privileged. This means that communications between a client and their lawyer can be confidential. This can also mean that, absent some exception or waiver, neither an attorney or a client can be compelled to divulge confidential communications made during the rendition of legal services.

    What do online, cheap prenup websites offer? As the websites plainly tell you, they are not your law firm. So, communications between you and the website are probably not privileged communications under the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine.

    This could result in your communications not being protected. And if your prenup gets challenged in court, you may be in the uncomfortable position of watching someone you thought was your lawyer testify against you.

    One cheap, online prenup website said it best:

    “Any Legal Information provided is not a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed to practice in an appropriate jurisdiction.”

    The JDSupra article is here.

     

  • Divorced at First Sight

    The recent announcement that Married at First Sight‘s Jose San Miguel Jr. and Rachel Gordillo are getting divorced will be a stark wakeup call for everyone who thought the T.V. game show was the perfect format for marital success.

    Divorced at first sight

    Marriage Experts and Surprise Divorces

    As the show’s title suggests, Married at First Sight (MAFS) cast member couples meet and marry at first sight in what Lifetime refers to as an ‘extreme experiment.’

    Selected cast members are paired up based on relationship experts. The experts, Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Dr. Viviana Coles, and Pastor Cal Roberson, meet with each of the show’s applicants individually. Their role? To determine if the cast members would be a good fit for the shows.

    The process is expedited, as following their wedding day they immediately go on their honeymoon, move in together and ultimately decide if they want to stay together or divorce on what is called ‘decision day.’

    The one thing you don’t have to second guess is the validity of the marriages on MAFS. It wouldn’t be surprising if the marriage ceremonies on MAFS were fake. But the weddings are legitimate, as are the divorces that follow for most of the matched couples.

    Surprisingly, given three experts make the calls, the show has a 70 percent divorce rate with an overall success rate of 30 percent.

    The Houston couple had shared glimpses of their journey while adapting to married life before they split. As last week came to a close, Pastor Cal had some sound advice for two strangers just trying to make a marriage work. It’s not easy, requires compromise and hard work. Consistent communication and the ability to be flexible,’ Jose had captioned a September 7 post.

    In another snap with Dr. Viviana Coles he wrote ‘sometimes you need a little help from the experts when you marry a complete stranger.

    Florida No Fault Divorce

    I’ve written about no fault divorce before. No-fault laws are the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. In Florida no fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

    Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. Gone are the days when you had to prove bad ratings, low Q-Score, adultery, or desertion.

    The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

    The big requirement for divorce: in order to obtain a dissolution of marriage judgment, one of the parties to the marriage must reside 6 months in the state before the filing of the petition.

    Believe it or not, the residency requirement can be a major impediment to divorcing for many people. Almost all states require you to be a resident before you can file for divorce. However, the amount of time you have to reside there can vary from state to state.

    Love on the Rocks

    The Season 13 couple initially broke up several weeks after their decision day on the Lifetime series, but later got back together by the time the reunion filmed. They were making plans to move back in with each other before ultimately deciding to divorce a few weeks back.

    “After much thought, we have decided that we are better off going our separate ways. The MAFS journey taught us a lot about ourselves and what we both need in a partner. We are grateful to all those who stood by us throughout the last 8 plus months.”

    On Married at First Sight, after being paired by the show’s renowned relationship experts, they head out on a honeymoon, move in together, and finally, make a decision between happily ever after and divorce.

    Jose documented he and Rachel’s journey on the show on his Instagram page over the past several months. In one September post, he shared a picture of him and his now-ex sitting down with Pastor Cal.

    “As last week came to a close, Pastor Cal had some sound advice for two strangers just trying to make a marriage work,” he wrote in the caption. “It’s not easy, requires compromise and hard work. Consistent communication and the ability to be flexible. Science & Art.”

    According to her official bio, Houston native Rachel was previously insecure about dating from her parents’ divorce, though her previous relationship helped change that.

    In adulthood, she was insecure when it came to dating but this all changed with her last relationship,” the bio read. “Though the relationship ended, it restored her hopes of being in a loving marriage with the right man.”

    Jose, meanwhile, grew up in a middle-class family in Pearland, Texas. “It was a struggle but his parents always made sure he was taken care of. Dating has been frustrating as Jose seems to consistently meet women not seeking anything long-term so he’s ready to be married and possibly have kids one day,” his bio said.

    The People article is here.

  • New York Judge Orders Child Vaccinated Over Parent’s Objection

    More news on child custody and vaccines as a family judge in New York orders an 11-year-old child to get vaccinated against COVID over a parent’s objection. It is a surprising child custody dispute over vaccination between a child’s lawyer/mother and scientist/father.

    Child Custody Vaccination

    Start Spreading the News

    Donald and Jeannie Figer were divorced in 2012. Their divorce did not end the controversy. The mother, Jeannie Figer, is a lawyer in Rochester and her ex-husband, Donald Figer, is reported to be a scientist and professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Their dispute? Must their child be vaccinated against COVID-19.

    The recent decision comes out as the highly transmissible Omicron variant is quickly taking over. New York is becoming known as a state with some of the strongest vaccine mandates. While New York only encourages children to get vaccinates, New York City just expanded its COVID-19 mandates, setting vaccine requirements for children as young as 5 years old, and for workers at all private companies.

    The father, who has himself been vaccinated, didn’t want them to rush the shot for his daughter as there were not any studies conducted on long-term side effects of the vaccine on kids, court papers say.

    But Monroe County Supreme Court Judge Richard Dollinger ruled that time is of the essence in getting the 11-year-old vaccinated against the virus, and sided with Jeannie, who works as an attorney.

    ‘”Waiting — to be ‘sure,’ as the father asks — is simply untenable, when the specter of a killing or incapacitating disease is swirling in the environment surrounding this young girl. Scientists may never catch up to this ever-evolving and elusive virus and variants.”

    The judge ordered the mother to get her daughter a vaccination appointment as soon as possible. It is unclear if the girl has since had the shot.

    Florida Child Vaccinations

    I’ve written about the injection of vaccines into Florida child custody cases 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.

    Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate against COVID-19, 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.

    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.

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

    New York State of Mind

    Judge Dollinger noted that Monroe County – where the child lives – has the second-highest rolling seven-day average of new cases per day since November 22nd. Many speculate the judge also worried about the rising Omicron variant of the virus, and an uptick of cases locally in upstate New York.

    Judge Dollinger himself noted that he was confused about to why:

    “an accomplished scientist and professor would oppose a child vaccine authorized by the CDC and universally encouraged by state and local physicians and other health officials.”

    Jeannie Figer pointed out that both she, Donald, and their 19 and 17-year-old daughters have already been vaccinated and wanted the 11-year-old to join them. The ruling adds that the girl’s doctor has also recommended the vaccination.

    Judge Dollinger also found that the risks of side effects from the vaccine are lesser than what would happen if she tested positive for virus, including spreading it to others.

    ‘”This court is unwilling to kick this can down the road,. ‘It could be years before any researchers have exacting accounts of either the short or long term consequences of the administration of this vaccine on 11-year-old girls with this child’s physiological makeup.'”

    The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in November unanimously voted 14-0 to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid pediatric vaccine dose for five to 11-year-olds. Over 700 children in the U.S. have died of COVID, but many American parents have cited the relatively low risk COVID poses to children as reason to hold off on vaccinating younger children.

    The MSN article is here.

  • Court Orders Covid Vaccination of Children

    In a child custody case in Kentucky, a family court orders the COVID vaccination of two small children. Last week a Kentucky appellate court decided the important issue of whether the family court judge was legally entitled to require the COVID vaccinations for the children over one parent’s objection.

    Kentyck covid

    The COVID Vaccine Derby

    Recently Canada resolved the issue over whether an unvaccinated parent can actually lose their child custody rights for refusing to vaccinate their child. This week’s issue is slightly different, can the court require a vaccination over another parent’s strongly held religious views and objection.

    In the Kentucky case, the parties had divorced in 2018. They shared joint custody and equal timesharing of their two children, aged eight and six. Throughout their marriage, and divorce, the parents always declined the required immunizations for their children on religious grounds.

    In fact, there was proof that they had signed affidavits in New York and Georgia declining vaccinations for their children on religious grounds and when they divorced, they signed Kentucky’s form for declining immunizations on religious grounds.

    However, two years later, the father had a change of heart. On June 30, 2020, he filed a motion for an order to allow him to vaccinate the children. The Mother objected, and a hearing was held in Family Court to resolve the question.

    The Father testified that he originally agreed not to vaccinate the children because he was leaving for deployment with the military and was unable to meet with the pediatrician. He thought there was an understanding the parties would just delay the vaccines.

    But, after he finished his military service, he began discussions with Mother regarding vaccinations for the children. Father stated that when he signed the vaccination declination affidavit he had doubts about the development of certain vaccines by use of aborted fetal cells.

    Now he believes the use of aborted fetal cells is so far removed from the process of developing vaccines that his concerns no longer exist. He believes it is appropriate to vaccinate the children. He wants to follow the advice of the children’s pediatrician to vaccinate.

    The Mother vehemently objected saying that doing so violates her firmly held religious convictions opposing the use of aborted fetal cells in the manufacture and design of the vaccines. Rather, she prefers using medication and antibiotics to treat her children. She argues there was an understanding between her and Father that the children should not be vaccinated and produced multiple documents the parties signed to that effect.

    Florida Child Vaccinations

    I’ve written about the injection of vaccines into Florida child custody cases 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.

    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.

    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.

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

    Kentucky Fried Covid

    The family court trial judge ruled it was in the children’s best interest to be vaccinated. The judge reasoned that, on balance, the children’s health and welfare outweighed the religious beliefs of one parent.

    The court ordered that the parties consult with the pediatrician to craft a “catch-up” schedule bringing the children current on vaccinations and other immunizations, or, if the parties were able, to agree to alternative vaccines that could potentially be utilized that do not use aborted fetal cells in their development and design.

    In affirming the trial judge’s ruling on appeal, the appellate court noted the overriding principle that the best interest of each child must be served by the family court’s decision.

    The mother’s argument did not articulate any detriment or risk of harm to her children by not vaccinating them. The father simply argued her religious views should not take precedence over his.

    The court ruled that when there is an impasse between a Mother and Father a family court properly can ‘break the tie’. Equal decision-making power is not required for joint custody, and parties or trial courts are free to vest greater authority in one parent even under a joint custody arrangement.

    The family court heard from both the Mother and Father, and found that it would be in the children’s best interest to be vaccinated in accordance with their pediatrician’s recommendations and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

    The Kentucky appellate opinion is here.

  • Custody Rights and the Unvaccinated Parent

    Whether an unvaccinated parent can lose their child custody rights is a painful topic these days given the talk of vaccine mandates around the world. The United States is not alone in countries where people have pointed positions on vaccine mandates. A court in Canada was recently left to make a painful decision about custody rights and an unvaccinated parent.

    Custody Vaccination

    A Shot of the Constitution

    In the United States, making the COVID vaccine mandatory has become more of a constitutional issue than a public health one. The issue has become especially sharp in child custody cases. Parents have a fundamental right to raise their children, but there can be exceptions. Courts have had a difficult time threading the needle when parents disagree about vaccinations.

    These issues are not just in the United States either. The Ontario Court of Justice recently had to decide whether a father’s decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID should deprive him of his parenting time.

    In L.S. v. M.A.F., the mother sought an order that the father’s parenting time be supervised. Why? The mother claimed that due to the father’s significant anger management issues, she feared for the child’s safety if left alone with him.

    The mother also said she trusted the paternal grandmother and the father’s sister to supervise the father’s parenting time. The father opposed and sought liberal and unsupervised parenting time with his child.

    During cross examination, the father revealed that he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. He also had no intention to get vaccinated, claiming that it was contrary to his Rastafarian beliefs, for which the court notes he did not provide evidence.

    He was nevertheless willing to take safety precautions during his parenting times, for example, wearing a mask. He also attested that the paternal grandmother is fully vaccinated and that he is comfortable with taking the child to her home.

    Citing Justice Robert Spence in his decision in A.G. v. M.A., 2021 ONCJ 531, the court said that there were competing interests at stake: on the one hand, parenting time increased the child’s risk of infection for COVID-19, and on the other, the child is entitled to have a meaningful relationship with her father.

    Florida Vaccination

    I’ve written about the injection of vaccines into Florida child custody cases 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.

    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.

    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. The Chicago case, however, involves a parent’s refusal to vaccinate herself.

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

    Getting to the Point

    The court agreed with the mother that it is in the best interest of the child to have a meaningful relationship with her father.

    But, after evaluating the evidence, the court concluded that it was necessary for the father’s parental time to be supervised by the paternal grandmother or his sister, both of whom are vaccinated and willing to supervise the father’s parenting time.

    The father had very little parenting experience and knowledge of the child’s needs, which can be compensated by the experience of the paternal grandmother or his sister, said the court. The court also considered the father’s little control over his temper and becomes verbally abusive and threatening when angered, and the presence of a third party can ensure that the child is removed from any situation should the father lose control of his temper.

    To reduce the risk of the child contracting COVID-19, the court-imposed restrictions upon the father’s parenting time, including that it shall be exercised either outdoors or in the paternal grandmother’s home and that both father and child shall always wear masks.

    The court also ruled that should the father become fully vaccinated, the restrictions shall no longer apply, but if these restrictions are violated, the mother may suspend his in-person parenting time.

    Canada’s Law Times article is here.