Case Study: Child Vaccine Dispute Divides Family
Written by Joseph D. Nohavicka
Happy New Year! We…Are…Live! So let’s begin with our first case study for 2022.
The parents of two daughters — 8 and 10 years old — divorced after 14 years of marriage. They had joint custody and got along very well. Then COVID struck. Regrettably, they disagree about whether the children should be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The mother filed an emergency application asking the court for assistance for the protection of the children. The parents resolved that application by entering into a written agreement dated April 10, 2020.
The agreement was simple:
"The parties shall comply with all New York State and New York City issued guidelines related to COVID-19 and social distancing for the duration of the crisis."
On December 7, 2021, the mother filed an emergency application to have the children vaccinated. Why?
The mother and her partner were vaccinated and have received boosters. The father, an attorney, is unvaccinated. He argues that he is "highly educated and has spent hours researching the vaccine" and that his opposition to vaccinating the children is because "there is no medical information available about the long-term effects of the vaccine" and because the FDA has only approved the vaccine for emergency use under protection of immunity from future legal claims.
The attorney for the children, selected by both parents, agreed with the mother – the children should be vaccinated.
The court reviewed the following 2021 text messages from the father in which the mother asked the father about whether he was socializing inside with the children with non-household members who were unvaccinated.
FATHER: “And don't be lecturing me about vaccines and seeing my parents either. Last I checked America was still a free country and I will do whatever I want. Have a great weekend. And FYI enjoy your last Alimony check.”
MOTHER: “Hi. It is my business when your practices during a pandemic impact my household too. I am not looking to say what you can and cannot do but we do need to communicate with each other. As per New York guidelines your parents would need to quarantine for 10 days or test out if they took a test within 3 days of arriving back to NY and a second test on their 4th day of quarantine which would be Monday. This is not my rule. It is the State’s ruling which I am sure you will all comply with. I am not looking to argue as we have been getting along. Again I just want to make sure [the children] and our families stay safe and health during this pandemic.”
FATHER: “You are a joke. You do not control me when I have the kids end of story. I will do what I want and feel free to do something about it. Tell them to not see friends inside? I didn't realize that was a law. This is bulls+++ and you need to stay out of my business. Go report my parents to the department of health [redacted]. F+++ing hysterical [redacted]. And please sue me. I'm begging you. So funny because that's why the kids kept asking when my parents were getting back because you were interrogating them. For your information they took a COVID test yesterday and it was negative. You're literally a sheep. You're gonna tell on me and my parents. Tell Cuomo the sexual harassing piece of s+++ governor [redacted]. You are interrogating the kids about when my parents are getting back from Mexico. Plus, the nonsense about seeing friends inside which is none of your business. And I'm never getting the vaccine. Sheep Sheep Sheep. No worries I'm telling the kids the real truth about BLM and Biden and Kamala. Yada Yada. They will not be brainwashed monkeys.”
The mother and father, demanding a hearing on this serious issue, each had their team of experts lined up to give testimony to back their position on either side of the child vaccine debate.
What was the court supposed to do with this? Become embroiled in the political-ideological arguments dividing this family in crisis?
Thankfully, the Court recognizing the seriousness of the issue and the tenor of the debate, determined that it must exercise judicial restraint in honoring the prior agreement entered into by the parties and by the rights of the parents to raise their children. Therefore, the court would not have to conduct a fact-finding proceeding as to which set of experts the parties may offer are "right".
The court will, instead, conduct an immediate hearing to determine whether this vaccination dispute has rendered the relationship unsuitable for joint custody. That is it.
Hopefully, the mother and father will be able to work this out between themselves and continue to be joint custodians of their children.
SPECIAL NOTE: Under the current NYC guidelines individuals, including children age 5 and older, who are eligible for vaccination but have not received at least one (1) dose of vaccine will not be allowed to participate in public indoor activities as of December 27, 2021. This is part of the commonly referred to "Key to New York" program. As of January 28, 2022, children age 5 and older must show proof of full vaccination to participate in public indoor activities.