For many divorced parents, vaccinations are simply part of their children’s pediatric care — it’s a non-issue. But when one co-parent objects to vaccinations due to religious beliefs or vaccine safety concerns, childhood immunizations can be a heated source of conflict in divorce and beyond.
If one parent doesn’t want to vaccinate the kids, what kind of say does the other parent have?
Co-parenting and vaccines: what are your rights?
When co-parents decide custody of their children in divorce, they must come to an agreement on where their kids will primarily live and how they will split their time between their parents. This is called physical custody. Parents must also decide a second form of custody — legal custody — that pertains to how parents will make certain decisions for their children concerning education, religious upbringing and health and medical care.
Legal custody, just like physical custody, can be shared or sole. In a sole legal custody arrangement, the parent awarded legal custody is able to make all decisions concerning medical and health care. More frequently, courts award shared legal custody, which means co-parents share decision-making responsibilities.
Whether legal custody is shared or sole, if a disagreement over vaccination breaks out, co-parents generally have the ability to go to mediation or court to have their concerns heard and the issue resolved.
For example, if prior to the divorce, both parents were in general agreement about vaccines, but now the parent with sole legal custody has become vehemently anti-vaccine, the courts could view this as a substantial change in circumstances that places the child at risk and may consider a motion to modify legal custody from sole to shared legal custody, or make other decisions.
If the co-parents share legal custody, they can try to work through their differences on their own, hopefully with input from the child’s pediatrician. If needed, the objecting parent could request mediation to work out a solution, or go to court if a compromise can not be reached. The courts can evaluate what is in the best interests of the child.
What other factors can the courts look at? Read about a recent child welfare case in which the courts sided with the Department of Child Protection & Permanency to enforce childhood vaccination over parental objections.
Are you concerned about your child’s medical care? Want to know more about establishing shared legal custody? We can help you understand your legal parental rights to making health decisions for your child. Safeguard your children. Contact us today at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.