A recent Florida family law case dealt with a Mother whose religious beliefs opposed vaccinating her child but the Father believed the child should receive traditional medical care, including vaccinations. In Winters v. Brown, 51 So. 3d 656 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011), the trial court held a hearing and awarded the Father ultimate responsibility to make health care decisions for the parties minor child. The Mother in this case did not believe in vaccinations or traditional western medicine and presented testimony regarding her religious beliefs. The Court additionally heard testimony from several expert witnesses, including doctors who testified to the effectiveness of vaccinations and the potential harm associated with not vaccinating a child. Usually appellate courts will overturn a trial court's restrictions on exposing a child to a parent's religious beliefs and practices, but they make an exception where there is a clear, affirmative showing that these religious activities will be harmful to the child. The trial court found the doctor's testimony to be credible in this case and that not vaccinating a child could cause physical and serious harm to the minor child. The appellate court upheld the trial court's ruling and found it was based upon competent and substantial evidence. An issue of this magnitude can be very complex and require testimony from numerous sources. If you believe your divorce case might present issues such as this, contact your expert child custody attorney to discuss whether the Winters case may apply to you.
By Robert Sparks Attorneys