IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — An Ionia County judge has issued an unusual order involving the COVID-19 vaccine and a parent’s right to see their child.
The order requires a child’s father and those around the child to be fully vaccinated, excluding those not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine or those with a documented medical exemption.
“All parenting time between the defendant and the minor child that takes place in the defendant’s home shall only occur in the home if everyone in the home, including but not limited to, the defendant, the defendant’s wife, or anyone else staying in the home or visiting the home who is lawfully allowed to be vaccinated against the Coronavirus and any of its variants are, in fact, fully vaccinated,” the Jan 20. order signed by Circuit Judge Suzanne Kreeger said.
The court explained its reason for ruling on the matter in an earlier order issued in September of 2021.
“While reasonable minds may differ on the subject of covid-19 realties, including vaccinations, the child’s extraordinary health concerns make this issue particularly relevant to the parent time issue,” the order stated.
According to court documents, the 6-year-old child has a rare genetic disorder that compromises his immune system, making him especially vulnerable to COVID-19. After contracting the virus in early 2021, the child was hospitalized at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for two weeks.
After the child was released, his mother filed a motion to modify parenting time, and, according to court documents, “testified to her concerns about defendant’s (the father’s) attitude towards covid-19 protocols, which she feels puts the child at risk.”
The father, Roy Fowler, told News 8 he hasn’t seen his son in over a year. Court documents note he was offered limited outdoor parenting time, which he declined.
“He pretty much (has) lived his life like he’s done every other day, except … couldn’t see me because it wasn’t safe,” Fowler said.
Fowler was vaccinated in September following the court’s recommendation for him to do so. But Fowler’s wife, the child’s stepmother, remains unvaccinated.
“I have to either exercise parenting time somewhere else or she has to leave (the house),” Fowler said.
Ionia-based attorney Eric Matwiejczyk is representing Fowler in the case and recently filed a claim to appeal the Jan. 2022 order. Matwiejczyk said he’s never heard of a judge making such a ruling.
“I think the judge was feeling from the heart and not looking at the law,” Matwiejczyk said. “We don’t think that it will withstand judicial review.”
Court Administrator Selina Schmidt said it would not be proper for Kreeger to comment on an ongoing case.
The child’s mother declined comment to News 8.