Custody and Vaccines by Cassandra Hearn

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Any parent will tell you that raising children involves making difficult decisions.  Deciding where the child will go to school, which talents to develop, and what extracurricular activities to get the child involved in are all decisions that need to be made early in a child’s life. When parents are still together, the hope is that they can work together and come up with solutions that they both agree are in their child’s best interest.  When parents separate or divorce, however, compromise can become much more difficult.  Vaccinations are an area that many parents are struggling with recently, and like other difficult choices, divorce or separation can make this a source of contention for parents. 

At the conclusion of a divorce or custody battle, the judge will make a decision about joint or sole legal custody.  Legal custody refers to the ability of the parents to make decisions for the child, such as educational decisions, religious decisions, or medical decisions.  By far the most common result after a final custody hearing is that parents are named joint legal custodians of the child.  This means that the parents need to work together and communicate about major decisions, such as vaccinations.  If parents have joint legal custody of their children, neither parent can get the child immunized without the consent of the other parent.  Parents need to talk to each other and their child’s medical providers about whether vaccines are right for their child.  If after this process, the parents still do not agree on whether the child should be immunized, the parent who wishes to have the child vaccinated still cannot do so without the other parent’s consent.  In that case, the parent wishing to have the child vaccinated would have to file a motion with the court asking that he or she be allowed to have the child vaccinated over the other parent’s objection.

In some cases, one parent may be named sole legal custodian.  In that situation, the parent who is named sole legal custodian can make the medical decisions without consulting the other parent at all.  Accordingly, the parent with sole legal custody can have the child immunized even if the other parent objects.

If you have questions about legal custody, call us today for a consultation at 619-800-0384. We can answer your questions and help you achieve your goals.