April 27, 2020

Joint Custody - Who Decides Whether To Vaccinate? | Cup of Joe

Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit.

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love: The Road to Bali

Out of the rubble of an ugly divorce, Elizabeth goes on a trip to Italy, India, and Bali. In Italy, Elizabeth eats. Next, after being well-fed, it’s off to India, where her days are spent in a Guru’s ashram just outside of Mumbai meditating and practicing yoga seeking the path to find God. Elizabeth prays. Then, to the final destination of her journey – Bali, the island paradise, where she meets a middle-aged Brazilian and, yes, finds true love. They sail off into the sunset. Elizabeth loves.

Back to Brooklyn:

This week’s case takes us to Brooklyn, New York.  The case arose out of the rubble of a failed romantic relationship that bore a child. A daughter. She is 8 years old.  The couple broke up after the relationship soured. The furthest away from Brooklyn  either of the parents traveled to was up to Syracuse one time to see a basketball game at the Old Dome and once to Grassmur Farm down in Berlin….New Jersey. 

They entered into a joint custody arrangement – 50-50 on time spent with each parent and 50-50 on life decisions: health, education, etc. Everything worked out fine until it was time for the daughter to be vaccinated for school. The father would not budge – NO VACCINATIONS. Left with no choice, the mother was forced to go to Family Court.  

This is the testimony from the trial.

I have good idea, for if you meet some person from different religion and he want to make argument about God. My idea is, you listen to everything this man say about God. Never argue about God with him. Best thing to say is, 'I agree with you.' Then you go home, pray what you want. This is my idea for people to have peace about religion.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love


Q. What is the dispute that you have with the mother of your child.
A. Unfortunately, the mother is erratic and her decision to end our relationship was heavily influenced by movies, specifically, Eat, Pray, Love.
Q. Sir, what relief are you asking the judge for?
A. I do not want my daughter to be vaccinated.
Q. Why do you not want your daughter to be vaccinated?
A. I will explain: I am a Buddhist. So in terms of me not making a commitment not to harm my daughter and others, I've had to do extensive research around vaccines, what's in vaccines. And I take it vaccine by vaccine, disease by disease. I weigh the risks and the benefits from doing those vaccines or not doing those vaccines. And that's how it's been from day one with the mother. I always said, I take it vaccine by vaccine, disease by disease. I do my research on both the vaccine and the disease. And I weigh out the risks and I weigh out the benefits. And so far every single moment, as things have changed, the risks always outweigh the benefits. And that's what my belief is. And that is consistent from day one to now.
Q. What research have you done?
A. My opinion is based upon the package inserts which state all the contraindications and the adverse reactions that could occur -- brain damage, encephalitis, and seizures.
Q. Well, which vaccines cause those harms?
A. I don't know all of this information from memory. I'm not a doctor.
Q.  Would your Buddhist commitment “not to harm” allow for your daughter to be vaccinated to avoid transmitting diseases to others?
A. I don't know how to respond to this question.
Q. Didn’t you receive your last vaccination in 2009?
A. Yes.
Q. And, yet, you told your daughter to object to vaccinations while at the doctor's office?
A. I did.
Q. And you discussed homeschooling with her, as well?
A. Yes. I wanted to plan ahead.
Q. You are not raising your daughter as a Buddhist, are you?
A. No.
Q. By the way, your position on this issue is absolute and non-negotiable?
A. It has been that way consistently from day one.
Q. And you understand that if your daughter is not vaccinated, she will not be able to remain in her school?
A. Yes.
Q. And your daughter is doing very well in school and has a lot of friends?
A. Yes. Those things are true. But I believe what I believe.


Q. You want to have your daughter vaccinated, correct?
A. Yes. Thank you. The vaccination issue came to a head this year during the measles outbreaks in Brooklyn, which is where our daughter is attending school.
I became very concerned that she was not vaccinated, and felt that it was an imminent issue to get my daughter vaccinated so that she could be healthy and be in school like other children.
Q. You discussed this with the child’s father?
A. Yes. I always wanted to vaccinate our daughter and her father agreed to a delayed vaccination schedule. 
Q. Any proof of that?
A. Yes.  I have the father's February 17, 2015 e- mail in which he noted my "willingness to trust my views delaying certain vaccines." So I agreed to not vaccinate her because I knew that she was in an environment where most children were vaccinated. So there's a thing called herd immunity, which means that it's less likely for a child to be infected when they're around— when they're in a community where most children are vaccinated. And because I did not want to incite any kind of conflict, ire—you know—in our co-parenting relationship I decided to let that issue go.
Q. What do you mean by raise "ire"?
A. I didn’t want to create a situation of intense anger and fear that I would experience from the father.
Q. Did he ever display this ire in public?
A.  Once, when we left the doctor’s office, the father followed me up and down the block to obtain my assurance that I would not vaccinate our daughter. I very calmly told him that I would discuss the matter with him later because I had to get to work. He then turned to my parents and, you know, tempers flared and voices were raised. All of this occurred in the presence of our daughter.
Q. And if you are given sole decision-making authority you will have your daughter vaccinated?
A. Of course.


I award of joint physical and joint legal custody, with final decision-making authority to the mother. This resolution is in best interests of the child.

The Court recognizes that the father is entitled to object to vaccinations and may base that objection on religious or medical or any other reason. And Public Health Law §2164 no longer provides an exemption for religious beliefs, it is not within the purview of this Court to determine the sincerity or depth of the father's religious beliefs.

However, as his objection completely fails to take into consideration the mother's concerns and views on the vaccination issue, and has substantially interrupted and interfered with the child’s education and stability, the only conclusion to be drawn is that he is placing his interests above child's best interests and lacks insight into the importance of stability in her life. Therefore, he is not fit to be the final decision-maker.

The child gets her shots and gets to stay in her school.

Finishing with a quote from Eat, Pray, Love:

[Saint Anthony] said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Here is the case:   http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_52174.htm

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