A Michigan judge has reduced the child custody rights of a woman who was jailed for five days for not following through on an agreement to vaccinate her 9-year-old son. The family law issues are twofold here. violation of a court order and whether vaccination of the children is lawful and a parental decision without the court involvement. Often the right to vaccinate your child can be a decision left to the parents individually. However, if the court deems the safety of the children are at risk the Judge can step in and order a vaccination. The Family court judges top priority is the health safety and welfare of the children. Ultimately, the determination is the best interest standard of review for the family law court judge. So when the Michigan court judge ordered vaccination to be given the child against the mother’s wishes the Judge must have considered the pros and cons about the vaccination and determined that the health of the child outweighed any religious views the mother might have held
Oakland County Judge Karen McDonald ruled Wednesday that Rebecca Bredow will no longer have primary custody of the boy, but will have joint custody with her ex-husband, James Horne. Since the mother violated the Judges court order the judge probably held her in contempt of Court. As a result the judge can penalize the mother in many different ways. One of the ways is by taking her custodial time away. In this case the famiy law court judge decided that it was in the best interest to limit the amount of custodial time the mother would recieve.
Horne wanted the boy vaccinated and Bredow agreed to do so last November but didn’t. She says vaccinations go against her religious beliefs. Religious beliefs cannot overtake the health safety and welfare of the child’s interest. The best interest are always at the top of the Judges agenda when making any ruling regarding custody. When determining the best interest of the child the court must assess the health safety and welfare of the child first before looking at other issues that might lead to where the child should reside primarily.
McDonald found Bredow in contempt of court last week and ordered her jailed. She also granted temporary custody to Horne and ordered the boy to be vaccinated. He received four immunizations on Monday. In a contempt of Court proceeding the court must find a violation of a court order and that the party had knowledge of the order and in fact violated it without any defense. Here clearly the mother violated the order willfully and the court had no other alternative than to punish the person who violated their order. The Judge has many options when their is a violation one of which is to encarcerate the party. Also the judge can alter the custody arrangement as the did in this case as a penalty to the party.
Bredow told reporters Wednesday she was “in shock” by the court’s decision. Her attorney plans to appeal.