Vaccination has been a common issue in divorce courts since long before the current pandemic arose. Typically, disputes take the form of one parent wanting their children to be vaccinated while the other doesn’t. However, a new type of vaccine-related conflict is starting to appear in Virginia courts. Can a court strip you of your right to parenting time with your children due to your vaccination status?
There is no law or statute on the books in Virginia that deals with the issue of vaccination status among parents in family court. This means that the matter is largely left up to the discretion of individual judges.
This doesn’t mean that a judge could do whatever they want without consequences. If a judge were to deprive a parent of parenting time for no apparently valid reason, and with no reasonable belief that the child was in danger, they would likely face severe backlash from the community at large.
This was the case in Illinois, when a judge deprived a mother of her visitation rights spontaneously, a measure that the woman’s ex-husband was not even asking for. The public outcry was intense enough that the judge decided to walk back his decision, pending further litigation on the matter. Such a thing could happen in Virginia as well.
The standard used
Judges in Virginia have set standards that they must follow when deciding whether to strip a parent of their right to parenting time. If a judge were to prevent you from visiting your children due to your vaccination status, their decision would have to comply with these standards in order to be valid and enforceable.
Visitation arrangements must always be based on the best interest of the child. This means that, whenever a judge decides to amend a visitation arrangement, they must be able to justify that decision by explaining why their chosen modification is the best situation for the child’s overall wellbeing.
Judges in Virginia take the wellbeing of children very seriously. Thus, they would not remove a parent’s visitation rights for vaccination status unless they were convinced that it was in the child’s best interest to do so. If that were to happen, the affected parent might be able to appeal the judge’s decision.