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Michigan Family Law Blog

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Impact of Vaccine Stances on Child Custody in Michigan

Q: Can a disagreement on vaccinations impact child custody?

A skilled Michigan family law attorney understands that each family in transition has a unique family dynamic and requires a personalized approach to dissolving the marital union.

Getting divorced in Michigan involves dividing the couple’s property and considering the appropriateness of spousal support or alimony. But when there are minor children involved, divorce is more complicated.

Couples with minor children need to work out who gets custody of the children. If they cannot agree, the court will decide whether one or both parents will be awarded custody considering what arrangement would be in the "best interests of the children".

In Michigan, there are two forms of custody– – physical and legal – – and both forms of custody can be awarded solely to one parent or can be split jointly between both parents.

Physical custody, as its name implies, refers to which parent has actual physical custody of the child – – who the child will physically live with. Legal custody refers to decision-making powers on behalf of the children, such as education, religious and general upbringing, and healthcare matters.

Sometimes, certain healthcare decisions can spark serious debate.

Recently, two divorced Michigan couples who have differences on whether their children should or should not receive vaccinations found themselves back in court regarding child custody issues. Michigan is one of 17 states that recognize a parent’s right to a religious exemption for their child’s vaccinations.

In one case, a mother who had reportedly previously signed an agreement to vaccinate the child, refused an order to vaccinate her child and was jailed for five days-- during which time the father allegedly had the child vaccinated. The court then reportedly modified custody resulting in the mother losing primary custody in favor of joint custody. The mother is reportedly appealing the decision.

In another case, a mother is fighting her child's father "for the right to decide if their two-year-old daughter should be vaccinated". The mother is reportedly seeking a religious exemption but has also raised safety concerns about vaccinations, specifically stating that autoimmune disease allegedly runs in the family. The father favors vaccination and reportedly questions the sincerity of the mother’s religious exemption stance.

If you are considering divorce or are already divorced and have questions regarding child custody modification or any other family law matter, Cameron C. Goulding Family Law and Mediation, P.L.C. can help you. Contact us today to request a consultation.

From our office in Rochester, Michigan, we are solely devoted to the practice of family law and serve clients throughout Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, Livingston, Lapeer, and Wayne Counties.


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