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Child custody dispute centers on vaccination debate

Many Pennsylvania parents begin their divorce process in the belief that custody issues will not lead to a contentious debate. Unfortunately, not all of those parents will be correct in that assessment. Very often, parents respond to reality of a divorce with an intense level of anger and bitterness, even when all parties agree that the marriage is no longer functioning. In such cases, child custody issues can dominate not only the divorce, but the years to follow.

An example is found in a couple who once shared the same approach about childhood vaccinations. They intentionally delayed immunizations for their child, due to concerns that grouping vaccinations together could be harmful to his health. Once the couple divorced, however, the issue of vaccination took center stage.

The mother was granted primary custody of the boy, but the father asked the court to compel his former wife to have their son's vaccination record brought up to date. That would require multiple vaccinations in a very short window of time. Ironically, this is exactly the outcome the couple initially sought to avoid.

The court ordered the mother to obtain those vaccinations in a timely manner. If she refuses to do so, she is at risk of being jailed for refusing to comply with a court order. That has left her in a difficult position. She must weigh her desire to avoid jail time against her deeply held belief about the safety of immunization.

An additional hearing on the matter is scheduled in the days ahead. Many parents in Pennsylvania and elsewhere will continue to follow the case to see how the court addresses the issue. When one parent has a strong belief concerning a child's well-being, and the other takes a different approach, the family very often ends up addressing the matter in a child custody hearing.

Source: CBS Detroit, "Mother Faces Tough Decision: Vaccinate Your Child Or Go To Jail", Sept. 28, 2017

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