How Will the Covid Vaccine Impact Custody in Michigan?
More than a year after Covid-19 began wreaking havoc on families in Michigan, across
the country, and around the world, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are
becoming more readily available, allowing people to start planning for an eventual return
to “normal” life after the pandemic.
Still, the inoculation effort can raise some tricky questions for families, especially
divorced parents and those who share custody. Who decides whether the kids get
vaccinated? Can a parent who does not get vaccinated still visit the children? And how
will the vaccine impact child custody?
At Kraayeveld Law, our Grand Rapids family lawyers help people throughout Michigan
navigate and resolve a full range of family law issues. That includes many of the unique
questions and disputes arising from the pandemic, an unprecedented time in which
shutdowns, job losses, and healthcare concerns have put new stress on parents and
Michigan’s Vaccine Schedule
Like many other states, Michigan is currently rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine in phases
based on certain priorities. The state’s goal is to vaccinate 70% of residents who are 16
or older — a total of some 5.6 million people — by the end of the year.
As of March 22, all Michiganders ages 50 and up will be eligible for the vaccine. Also,
the following groups are currently being vaccinated:
● Healthcare workers
● Long-term care facility residents and employees
● People who are at increased risk for severe illness based on underlying medical
● Frontline responders
● Food processing and migrant or seasonal farmworkers
● Grocery store workers
● Restaurant workers and food facility workers
● Local government workers
● Non-hospital laboratory workers
● Veterinary clinic employees
The eligibility phases are changing regularly as more of the vaccine becomes available.
Vaccines for Children in Michigan
The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only available for adults ages 18
and older, while the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for people ages 16 and older.
Trials are currently underway testing the vaccine on kids ages 12 and up, and the age
may be lowered for future tests depending on the results. Some observers believe that
children could start being vaccinated as soon as the fall.
Michigan Schools During the Pandemic
Schools across the state are also starting to reopen on a rolling basis. The decision to
reopen is primarily left to the more than 800 individual school districts, although Gov.
Gretchen Witmer has urged districts to start providing some form of in-person learning.
More than 80% of school districts were offering in-person learning by March, according
to The Detroit News. That includes Kent County, where many schools are offering both
remote and in-person learning.
It appears that schools generally will not require eligible children to be vaccinated to go
to class in-person. Still, there are plenty of reasons why parents would want to consider
the option of having their children getting the vaccine.
Child Custody Issues in Michigan
For divorced parents, decisions about whether a child gets the vaccine or goes to
school in-person depend on who has child custody.
There are two types of child custody in Michigan: physical and legal. Physical custody,
as the name suggests, determines where the child lives. Legal custody determines who
makes decisions about the child’s care and upbringing, including when it comes to
education and healthcare.
Custody can be solely awarded to one parent or shared among both parents. Michigan
courts often prefer joint custody, depending on the circumstances, making it a common
situation for families throughout the state.
A parent with sole legal custody has full authority to decide whether the child will be
vaccinated and whether he or she will attend school in-person or online during the
pandemic. In shared custody situations, the parents must make those decisions jointly.
That can lead to tense, drawn-out disputes when parents are not on the same page.
Although they can take those fights to court, this is a time-consuming and expensive
option. Our Grand Rapids family lawyers help people explore every opportunity to
resolve these matters without litigation whenever possible, including by exploring
alternatives like mediation and negotiated settlements.
How Our Grand Rapids Family Lawyers Can Help
If you have questions about how the vaccine rollout may impact child custody decisions
or are already grappling with family law issues, the Grand Rapids family law attorneys at
Kraayeveld Law can help you understand your rights and explore your options.
Our attorneys have dedicated their professional lives to assisting Michigan families in
their times of need. We are committed to helping people efficiently untangle their
marriages and resolve a wide range of related issues, including child custody and
Call 616-285-0808 or contact us online to make an appointment to speak with our
Grand Rapids child custody lawyers about your situation.