Divorce Court Judge orders COVID-19 vaccine for Liberty Co. man to see his children

A Liberty County man says his rights were violated when a divorce court judge ordered him to get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to see his kids.

The court-ordered COVID-19 vaccine was listed as a requirement by the judge in order for Chris Staley to have visitation with his kids, according to Trinity County court records. 

The divorce docket dated 5/10/21 gives this order: "Both parents are to get vaccinated for COVID by end of this week."

"He pretty much told me and her both that we were to get a COVID vaccination," said Chris Staley. "I shook my head, and he said, ‘I see that Mr. Staley doesn’t agree with this.’"

Staley lives in Cleveland, Texas, but has been going through a divorce via Zoom in Trinity County where his ex lives with their four kids.

"I didn’t agree with it myself, and he pretty much told me that I guess I didn’t want to see my kids," said Staley.


District Judge Travis Kitchens made the hand written vaccine order, according to the Trinity County clerk’s office. He so far has not responded to FOX 26’s calls for comment.

"I just feel like my civil rights were kind of violated there, whenever a judge is ordering me to take a vaccination, like I said, that’s not FDA approved, and they really have no idea what the side effects could be down the road, you know--what it could do to me in a year or five years," said Staley.

Staley says he feels he should have the right to see his four kids, ages 6 to 11, without a vaccine.

"No underlying anything--they were perfectly fine," said Staley of his children’s health.

Staley says his lawyer Lana Shadwick also advised him to follow judge Kitchens’ orders.

"[Judge Kitchens is] the one who’s gonna set my visitations and be the one that handles all my stuff—pretty much be the lawyer who oversees my case until my kids are 18 and that it would be in my best interest not to upset him, and she pretty much said you probably should just go get it," said Staley.

Court records show the attorney withdrew from the case after Staley contacted FOX 26. Staley’s ex has not yet responded to FOX 26’s calls for comment.

Staley missed his court ordered vaccination deadline and had his first visitation with the kids last weekend--still unvaccinated.

"Kind of rolled with it and just kind of took my kids for the day without anyone saying whether I’ve gotten this vaccination or not," said Staley.


Staley says he’s trying to reach Governor Abbott about Judge Kitchens. The governor did sign an executive order this year saying he is "prohibiting state agencies or political subdivisions in Texas from creating a ‘vaccine passport’ requirement, or otherwise conditioning receipt of services on an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status."

Staley’s next court hearing is in July when he expects to finalize custody of the kids.