Family Law During Omicron Peak
The end of the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled with the Delta and Omicron variants passing through. However, that has not stopped family courts from processing all the divorces and child custody cases that have piled up since the pandemic began in 2020. With school openings in doubt and vaccine mandates prevalent in some states but not others, family courts have had their hands full in addressing the new legal issues that have arisen because of Covid-19.
The Supreme Court’s repeal of the OSA vaccine mandate has left behind a patchwork of state laws that often contradict one another. Most of the west coast states require private restaurants and bars to seek proof of vaccination while states like Texas and Florida specifically forbid businesses from asking for such proof.
This gap in public policy between states also extends to the families living in those states. One parent might want to get their children vaccinated and consider doubts regarding vaccination as proof of the other parent’s unfitness. Conversely, another parent might be completely against vaccination. What would a family judge do in these microcosms of our political debates?
One judge in Illinois removed a mother’s custody rights because she was unvaccinated but rescinded the order weeks later. A New York judge required a father to get vaccinated or submit to a Covid test to spend time with his 3-year-old child. A judge in Los Angeles ordered an unvaccinated father to get vaccinated or obtain a medical exemption.
Vaccination orders by family law judges are appropriate. Family courts are required to act in a child’s best interests. A parent’s political views should not stop the parent from doing what is best for his or her son or daughter. Covid-19 is dangerous to children regardless of whether a child might die from it. Even surviving Covid might lead to long-term disabilities – a parent should not subject a child to such dangers. If a parent has a compelling reason to not take a vaccine, then he or she should present it under oath in court. Simply being against a vaccine is not a valid reason to endanger their own child.
Travel During a Pandemic
Child visitation has also become more challenging during the pandemic, though not as stressful as during the early lockdowns. One parent may be more afraid of Covid than the other. Other parents refuse to comply with Covid testing or quarantine requirements.
As with vaccinate requirements, failure to comply with Covid testing or quarantine requirements is a violation of the child’s best interests standard. The child must come first – not the parent’s political beliefs, not their own fears, but the child’s safety. Any parent who wouldn’t even take a Covid test or quarantine after knowing they have Covid is endangering their children. Since testing and quarantine are less invasive than vaccines, the justification to refuse testing or quarantine is even less compelling than refusal to get vaccinated.
Conversely, there may be parents who are too cautious about Covid. Children are only young once and they need to interact with the world to grow and develop as adults later in life. If a parent takes all proper Covid recommendations – wearing a mask indoors, getting vaccinated, and getting tested when appropriate – then there is no need to stop life. There is risk to everything we do. The goal should be to minimize those risks and avoid increasing those risks. Life should proceed normally once Covid precautions have been taken as it is also in a child’s best interests to live like a normal child.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Family Law Issue?
If you have encountered any issue related to family law, then you should contact a lawyer today. A skilled family lawyer can answer your questions, provide guidance on your case, and represent your best interests in court.