VACCINE CUSTODY DISPUTES
Why Most Lose, and How They Can Win
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As vaccine awareness has grown over the years, so, too, has the number of child custody lawsuits where parents disagree about vaccinating their kids. The pro-vaccine parents almost always win these cases. Here’s an overview of why, and how exempting parents can significantly increase their odds.
Every state has a “best interests” legal standard that requires judges to review the evidence and decide what’s best for the child. This makes sense, of course. Every situation is different, so each must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Except with vaccines…
The law is full of exceptions, but family law attorneys and judges never see exceptions to the “best interests” standard, so they’re not looking for one when vaccine disputes come up. I’ve advised 175 - 200 family law attorneys nationally over the past 15 years, and not one understood the law with vaccines before hearing me explain it. But over 95% of them agreed after hearing it. (I’m not smarter than them, I’m just the only one who’s been immersed in vaccine exemption law for the past two decades. Because of this, I see things others miss.)
A complete introduction is beyond the scope of an article, so I encourage you to watch this 24-minute video for a more complete introduction:
Meanwhile, in brief:
Vaccines are the only issue in child custody disputes where the law already gives us the answers. State statutes tell us what vaccines are required and when, and who can opt out and how. So, most of the time, the only thing a judge needs to do is determine whether all concerned are in compliance with the law. If everyone is—if the children get any required vaccines or are legally exempt—the dispute is over; there’s nothing more a judge needs to do or legally can do.
Allow me to explain: Family law judges’ duty and authority to review evidence and decide what’s in a child’s best interests comes from general “best interests” statutes. Remember: judges don’t decide the science; they weigh the evidence. As all state and federal health agencies and the majority of medical doctors favor vaccines, the weight of the evidence profoundly favors vaccines. Therefore, when judges apply the “best interests” standard, it’s a slam dunk win for the pro-vaccine parent. This is why bringing an alternative doctor to court to educate the judge rarely works. Such expert’s opinion is profoundly outweighed by the majority of her peers who disagree.
The point that everyone misses, however, is that vaccines are an exception to the “best interests” standard. State laws allow individual parents to exercise an exemption. If “best interests law” = “vaccinate the child” while “exemption law” = “a parent can legally refuse vaccines for the child,” these two laws are in conflict. How do we resolve this conflict? Our legal systems have statutory construction rules that tell us how to resolve conflicting statutes. These rules say that when a general statute (here, the “best interests” statute) conflicts with a specific statute (here, the exemption statute), the specific statute supersedes or “trumps” the general statute. The exemption statute “wins,” automatically, as a matter of law. So, when parents disagree, if one parent has exercised a lawful exemption, that’s the end of the matter. Family law judges’ authority from a general “best interests” statute doesn’t allow them to override a parent’s right from a specific exemption statute. It really is that simple.
This only makes sense as a practical matter. State legislatures hear expert medical testimony on all important medical bills. Legislatures would not enact non-medical exemptions if exercising them would not be safe, if it would not be in children’s best interests. This means that as long as all concerned are in compliance with the law—if any child required to get vaccines either gets them or is legally exempt—there is no health concern according to the legislature. Legislatures enact health laws to protect the public health based on expert medical testimony.
Now, there are plenty of people who disagree, who believe that an exempt child does pose a risk to herself and the local community. But that disagreement has to be taken up with the legislature. If a family law judge overrides or revokes a parent’s lawful exemption, the judge is effectively rewriting the exemption laws, something they can’t legally do. Only legislatures can create and amend statutes. The courts’ job is to interpret the law, and they must do that according to statutory construction rules when they apply. So again, when parents and children are in compliance with the law, the court’s job is done.
Pro-vaccine parents often declare, “I have just as much right to vaccine our child as my ex has to exempt her!” Parents usually do have an equal say about their children. But where vaccines are concerned, this isn’t necessarily the case. Exemption statutes allow one parent to exercise an exemption, but they don’t allow one parent to vaccinate a child over the other parent’s objection. Individual parents exercise exemptions all the time, of course. So, if a court intervenes in one particular instance and says, “here, both parents have to agree,” the court is effectively rewriting the statutes for these particular parents, which courts can’t legally do. This would also be a Constitutional 14th Amendment “equal protection” violation, because the court is treating similarly situated parents differently by requiring one couple to agree to get the exemption while other parents around the state exercise the exemption individually.
I applaud pro-vaccine parents and judges’ concern about the wellbeing of children (if with frustration about the fake science on which these otherwise good intentions are based where vaccines are concerned). But medically, the focus on any one child’s vaccination status is misplaced. There are both immune and non-immune children in both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. Immunizations don’t work in everyone, and vaccine immunity wears off over time. On the flip side, non-vaccinated children can get natural immunity, and without even developing symptoms through “non-apparent infection” (subclinical or asymptomatic infection). To determine a child’s immune status requires a titer test for each disease, whether the child is vaccinated or not. But presumably, herd immunity or community immunity ensures the safety of all. Immunization policy isn’t about individuals, it’s about the immune status of groups, stopping the spread of disease through communities, and that doesn’t require everyone to be immune. If community protection required tracking the immune status of each individual child, we’d have to test all of them, vaccinated or not, at regular intervals to determine each person’s immune status, and for each disease. That’s impractical, of course, and history reveals that it’s not needed. But where non-science agendas are being advanced—agendas the public would vehemently object to if they knew what was really going on—those agendas must be advanced under a false pretense of health to keep them hidden. This is the condition we’ve had for decades now concerning childhood infectious diseases and vaccines.
Furthermore, when parents have qualifying religious objections to vaccines, the Constitution’s First Amendment “free exercise” of religion supersedes state “best interests” laws, too, because federal law is a higher legal authority than state law. But religious freedom isn’t an absolute right; safety will always trump other rights when the safety concern is high enough. The U.S. Supreme court says that parents can exercise religious freedom with their children up to the point of harm or an imminent risk of harm. As routine vaccines concern hypothetical future risks, there is no “imminent risk” of harm by refusing them. You get a measles shot, for example, in case you are exposed to measles at some hyothetical future point that may or may not ever actually occur. So, religious objections trump all routine vaccines, categorically.
Unfortunately, having the winning legal argument doesn’t guarantee a win. The biggest hurdle in these cases is psychological. Most judges are steeped in the false narratives like everyone else. They are uncomfortable with leaving children unvaccinated. Like it or not, humans are powerfully driven by feelings, and those drivers are often subconscious where they are invisible and operate automatically. (See or review Fear vs. Knowledge for details about how the psychology works in both sleeper and aware communities). A judge that upholds a parent’s exemption rights risks being ridiculed or ostracized; she may fear losing her next election for leaving a child unvaccinated. Sadly, judges often step over the law to get to an endpoint they’re comfortable with, a “better safe than sorry” or “better to err on the side of caution” rationale where vaccines are concerned. So, exempting parents must not only present the proper law, they must address judges’ fears of leaving children unvaccinated. Putting the issue into perspective can be a big step in this direction. For example, no one’s dying from the childhood infectious diseases, but children die every year from automobile accidents, drownings, and other causes. Once we determine that all concerned are in compliance with the law with respect to vaccines (which means everyone’s safe according to the legislature that enacted those laws), we should redirect our attention to matters that pose statistically greater health risks. Vaccine concerns are greatly exaggerated due to the immense profit and other agendas associated with them. Beating this requires addressing the underlying fears to which the false narratives are anchored, as those fears often overpower information and rational analysis.
Finally, an attorney’s job in court includes explaining the law to the judge, and that usually requires citing the relevant regulations, statutes, and Constitutional sections; and the legal precedent interpreting them. As the correct law on vaccines is multi-faceted and will be new to the judge, a legal brief spelling it all out can be critical. These briefs can run 25 pages or more, as the analysis is multi-faceted. In addition, where religious objections are involved, it’s important to understand how the law works with vaccines and religion. Most people’s common-sense approach to writing a statement of religious beliefs opposed to vaccines isn’t fully consistent with the law. We get to decide what we believe, but the law decides what beliefs qualify for a legal right. Many parents lose their exemption on a legal technicality due to their lack of understanding about how the law works.
Feel free to inquire further for information about my legal exemption products and services regarding vaccine custody disputes. These cases are challenging due to the prevailing false narratives, but when exempting parents are equipped with the proper law and address the psychological barriers, they substantially increase their chances of success.
Alan Phillips, J.D.
Vaccine Rights Legal Expert
Have an exemption question? Email email@example.com. Some questions may be addressed in future articles (with anonymity).
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