There are a number of different arrangements and considerations for divorcing parents to understand regarding their children. Primary physical custody, as it sounds, means that a child will reside primarily with one parent. However, that parent does not necessarily have the right to make all decisions regarding the child's care and upbringing on his or her own. A child custody agreement will often spell out additional obligations, and disregarding them can mean serious legal trouble.
For example, a Midwestern mother had primary custody of her 9-year-old boy. The custody agreement included a requirement that the child be kept current on his vaccinations. However, when the time came, the mother refused to allow him to undergo vaccinations, citing religious and health concerns.
The boy's father argued that the mother was violating the terms of their agreement, and a judge agreed. Not only was the father given temporary custody and the vaccinations ordered to take place, but the mother spent a week in jail for contempt of court.
It is worth noting briefly that, while most states allow parents to opt their children out of mandatory vaccinations for various reasons, Mississippi is one of only three states that do not. However, the lawsuit discussed herein is fundamentally a contempt of court case; the judge's ruling was not on the merits of vaccination itself, but on the mother's adherence to the terms of the child custody agreement. A dispute over any number of issues in a custody agreement could lead to a similar result.
The important takeaway for our Gulfport readers is that even a parent with primary physical custody of a child is not necessarily free to make all decisions independently. A parent may need to seek an agreement modification if he or she considers any terms problematic, and a legal professional can help a parent make that argument in court. Simply moving ahead with a decision that violates a child custody agreement can lead to a loss of custody itself.
Source: Healthline, "Should Parents Be Punished for Not Vaccinating Their Children?," Bob Curley, Oct. 13, 2017