Michigan Custody Cases Raise Eyebrows

Two Michigan custody cases are creating headlines. In one case, a judge jailed a mother who refused to vaccinate her son despite a court order. In the other, a judge awarded joint custody to a father who raped the child’s mother.

Vaccines and the family court

A Detroit mother served 7 days in jail for refusing to follow a court order that required her to vaccinate her son. The mother says that she doesn’t believe in vaccines. She says that the child’s father didn’t believe in vaccines either until they began fighting in family court.

In addition to the week in jail, the mother lost primary custody of the child. The parents now share custody of the 9-year-old boy. Michigan allows parents to refuse to vaccinate their children. However, the question becomes more complicated when parents in a custody case disagree. In that event, it’s up to the court to decide the best interests of the child. The American Medical Association strongly recommends vaccination for almost all children.

The mother said that she was only protecting her children. The father says the same. The court allowed the father to keep the child while the mother was in jail and until he could arrange for vaccinations. Activists stood outside the Oakland County courthouse to show their support for the mother.

Custody and child support

Meanwhile, in Sanilac County, Michigan, a judge awarded joint custody of a child to a father convicted of criminal sexual conduct against the child’s mother. The judge later reopened the case and said that he didn’t know about the father’s criminal past. Michigan law allows the court to deny a parent access to a child in cases of rape.

The local prosecutor’s office initiated the paternity case on behalf of the mother. Because the mother receives public assistance, Michigan law requires the prosecutor to try and establish paternity and a child support order on behalf of the mother. Usually that means proving paternity and determining the best interests of the child. The father has the option to ask the court for joint custody. The court may consider it.

In the Sanilac County case, the court awarded joint custody. The father had two criminal sexual conduct convictions including one involving the child’s mother. A representative from the Michigan Supreme Court even weighed in to defend the judge. He said that the judge didn’t have complete information when he made the decision. He also said that the father agreed to pay support.

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