October 9, 2021 • By Dennis Beaver
Anne buzzed me:
“You have a father and his 15 year old son calling. Mom refuses to vaccinate the boy and wants him to lie about a religious exemption or use a fake vaccination card. They want to know about a possible change of custody.”
This call proved to be an extreme example of the twisted reasoning that has overtaken our country. Soon I was speaking with “Pat” and his son, “Jimmy.”
“Lisa, Jimmy’s mother, is not vaccinated and does not want any of our three kids to take the shot. I am an emergency room physician and she is an R.N. working in a cancer treatment clinic with very ill people. How she can justify not being vaccinated is beyond my comprehension,” Pat explained, adding, “It is just immoral.”
Jimmy then said something that calls into question Lisa’s judgment that a Family Law judge would find inexcusable:
“Mom says she is going to forge a letter from our family doctor saying the vaccination would cause me serious health problems, and if that doesn’t work, a fake vaccination card, and even have me claim a religious exemption! But we never go to church!
“Mr. Beaver, we all love our mom, but I know this is a sick situation and dangerous. We are all a year apart in age, have discussed this and want to live with Dad.”
Pat asked, “If Lisa forged those papers, how much trouble could she be in? Would a judge give me custody if I went to court?”
Penalties are Severe
Anyone who forges their own vaccine card or buys one faces significant criminal penalties. The United States Department of Justice has issued advisories stating, “Misrepresenting the official seal of a U.S. agency, like the CDC logo on vaccine cards, is a violation of federal law. Violators could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.”
So if Lisa actually went ahead with her scheme of forging a vaccine card for her son and, possibly the other kids, then Pat might not have to worry about petitioning a court for a change of custody. Uncle Sam would have done it for him with Momma in prison.
As state laws differ on penalties for fake letters of exemption and how they deal with individuals who present fraudulent COVID cards and related documents, it is not possible, given the limited space in this article, to address them individually. But suffice it to say these matters are taken seriously and there have been prosecutions.
Could Seriously Impact Jimmy’s Chance for Athletic Scholarships
Pat said that Jimmy is an accomplished athlete and is aiming for an athletic college scholarship.
A Northern California school official who I will simply call “Ted” points out, “If a student presented a fake COVID card or other fraudulent documents, this would very likely be entered in their file and sent along with school transcripts. It could have a disastrous impact on college acceptance, scholarship requests, even enlisting in the Armed Forces, as it goes to the student’s moral character, honesty and trustworthiness.”
Would a Family Law Judge Change Custody?
So, if this case came before a Family Law judge, might custody being changed?
An August 30, 2021 article in the Washington Post considered that question, discussing the case of a mother in Chicago, in a Zoom court session over child support.
When asked if she was vaccinated, Rebecca Firlit said no and had no of intention of doing so for vague health reasons. Cook County Judge James Shapiro said the mother could not see her 11-year-old son until she got a COVID vaccine.
Family law judges must ask, “What is in the best interest of the child.”
A review of the many recent articles on point discuss the very real possibility of a change in custody or, as a condition of continued custody, having the child and parent vaccinated.
Two Family Law Judges Share Their Opinion
This column is read by judges across the country, many who share their opinions on various social and legal issues. I discussed my reader’s situation with two Family Court judges from both coasts.
“Judge Marie,” a 25 + years New York jurist as feisty as television’s Judge Judy, commented: “This Lisa character! Having seen neighbors die of COVID when the pandemic attacked New York, I have no sympathy for a mother like her. There is a moral obligation to protect your children from disease, and we can, now, with the vaccines.
“Unless she immediately got vaccinated herself and gets the kids their shots, I would change custody. The fact that she is an RN working at a cancer clinic and refuses to be vaccinated is shocking.”
“Paul,” 30 years on the bench in a West Coast city, agreed and observed, “If a parent wants to live alone on a desert island and believes that COVID is a hoax and vaccines are some governmental conspiracy, that’s fine.
“But not when you are in society, raising children, and work as a nurse in a cancer clinic with patients who have no functioning immune systems. There is something seriously wrong with this lady’s moral compass.”
I passed along judge Paul’s recommendation:
“Retain counsel at once. The fact that Lisa would make her son a co-conspirator to fake COVID clearance is enough for a court to change custody.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.