After divorce, many couples disagree about how to raise their children. Issues like bedtimes, dietary restrictions and even screen time can be a source of contention. But it’s not often that a former couple ends up in court over disagreements about how their child should be cared for. And it’s even less common that the cause of the strife is medical. However, a mother was just sentenced to jail for refusing to vaccinate her son, in compliance with her ex-husband’s wishes.
On September 27, 2017, Rebecca Bredow, a 40-year-old mother from Ferndale, Michigan was told by Oakland County Family Court Judge Karen McDonald that she had 7 days to get her 9-year-old son vaccinated. “If not,” she told Bredow, “you will appear here Wednesday and if you have not, I’ll send you to jail. Let me say it one more time, you have seven days. It’s ridiculous. Don’t make me do that.”
Seven days came and went, and when Bredow appeared before the judge again, her son still wasn’t vaccinated. The result? Judge McDonald sentenced her to jail for 7 days for contempt of court. During that time, the boy will be staying with his father, James Horne, who plans to get the boy vaccinated.
It’s a tricky situation, and one that’s been dragging out in court for over a year now. Horne and Bredow got divorced years ago. Horne wants his son to be vaccinated. Bredow doesn’t. Her reasons, she says, are religious. It was a point that she raised again in court, when explaining to the judge that she would rather “sit behind bars standing up for what I believe in, than giving in to something I strongly don’t believe in.”
Horne’s attorney, however, says it’s a farce. He referred to the religious waiver as “a convenient lie” and pointed out during court arguments, that both Bredow and her current husband, Gary, “testified that they do not practice the tenets of any organized religion.” In addition, he also noted that Bredow and her husband are medical marijuana users, and that Bredow has already been charged with domestic violence against her current husband twice.
Bredow defended her actions, saying that Horne has known about her objections to vaccinations for a long time, but has only recently decided to make a big deal out of the issue, because she’s been attempting to collect unpaid child support. Horne, however, claims it’s more than that. He says Bredow has repeatedly violated his parenting time rights. In response, Bredow claimed that Horne is a pornography addict.
The issue of vaccinations has caused serious strife for this family.
All in all, the situation is likely frustrating for both parents. Horne believes that his son’s health is jeopardized, and he is upset that his ex is putting her personal beliefs before the health of their child. Bredow feels backed into a corner and says that her parenting rights have been stripped by the court.
However, in response to her jail sentence, Bredow’s attorney raised an interesting point. He said that parents should take heed, and spell out in their divorce settlements exactly who gets to make the medical and health-related decisions for their children in the future.
This way, they can avoid situations like this, where a mother is sent to jail for choosing to exercise her right to decide against vaccinating her child. Attorney Brandy Thompson from The Kronzek Firm points out that parents that have joint legal custody of a child have equal input into making decisions about elective medical issues such as vaccinations. When the parents can agree, the court decides.
As experienced divorce and family law attorneys here in Oakland County, we’ve helped countless parents in Farmington Hills, Rochester, Royal Oak and Bloomfield Hills to plan for their futures after divorce. If you or a loved one are considering divorce, or need help with your custody agreement, call our skilled and compassionate family law attorneys at (248) 479-6200. We are here to help you prepare for your family’s future.