“How the COVID-19 Vaccine Could Impact Parental Custody Judgements,” Fox News
Boyd Collar Nolen Tuggle & Roddenbery founding shareholder John L. Collar, Jr. was quoted in a Sept. 5, 2021 Fox News article exploring the issue of whether parents can lose custody of their child for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In a case out of Chicago, Cook County Judge James Shapiro initially revoked a mother’s parenting time with her son until she was vaccinated. The decision was later reversed; however, the matter prompted public discussion and scrutiny regarding the constitutionality of the issue. It also made parents wonder if they could lose custody of their child if they refuse to get the vaccine.
As to the question of whether a judge would order parents to get vaccinated, Collar believes courts are unlikely to get involved in these matters because they spark constitutionality issues; however, he further notes that parents should be aware that custody rulings are guided by one basic principle: serving the best interests of the child. Judges are required to look at these matters holistically and must consider factors, such as whether the child is immunocompromised, if there are laws in place requiring either the child or the parent to get the vaccine and how the issue is presented at court.
While public policy considerations are present due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, judgements can be based on the risks associated with a parent being unvaccinated, which could cause judges to “step in and modify custody, at least temporarily, just to protect the child,” Collar noted. Additionally, he and the other family law attorneys who contributed to the article agreed that if a child is immunocompromised and in Collar’s words “especially if [COVID-19] infection presents ‘a medical risk for a child,’” a judge presiding over a custody battle may order a parent to get vaccinated if the issue is properly presented at court.
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