As an Arizona State Bar Certified Specialist in family law matters in Arizona, I have written many times upon various issues that arise when two parents (who do not get along) are tasked by the Court to make joint decisions that are in the child or children’s best interest.

While with many issues, both parents can come to the same clear decision as to what is in the child’s best interest.  There would be very few parents who would feel strongly that it is in a child’s best interest to have dangerous surgery, for example.

For other issues, both parents may have equally strong opinions as to what is best for the child, though the parents have completely opposite view points.  One such issue that often gives rise to strong opinions on both sides is the immunization of children.

In a recent California case, the Oakland County Circuit Court judge sent a mother to jail for a week for her refusal to comply with a prior court order that the child be vaccinated.  Perhaps one could argue that a Judge (with no medical training) has no right to order medical treatment.  However, when the two parents who are required to make such joint decisions are unable to come to agreement, the Court is often required to step in and break the tie vote.

At Mother’s contempt hearing, the Judge awarded Father temporary custody of the child, and stated to Mother: “It’s clear to me you don’t care about (court) orders, even if you agree to them. . . You’ve repeatedly stated over the past several days publicly that you will not follow this court order, so I’m sentencing you to seven days in jail.”

An important part of this California case was that the Mother had previously agreed that the child would be vaccinated, and had later changed her mind.  The Judge was therefore enforcing the parties’ prior agreement.  The judge then stated to Mother: “I understand you love your children, but what I don’t think you understand is that your son has two parents and dad gets a say.”

In addition to vaccinations, divorced parents often have disagreements upon other major medical and major educational decisions, often with each parent having very strong feelings that the position taken by that parent is what is truly best for the child.  If you are involved in a divorce, legal separation, or annulment case or other family law case, and if you have determined that you need experienced legal representation, please call 480.733-6800 and ask to speak with Douglas C. Gardner, or visit our website.