Vaccines are creating a source of contention between divorced parents about whether to vaccinate their children against the deadly disease.
The vaccine issue emerged after the Food and Drug Administration declared that children as young as 12 could get the vaccine. Oftentimes, disputes about such medical decisions involve whether to allow a child to take a prescription drug or attend therapy. But parents with shared legal custody must also agree on preventive care, including vaccinations.
One parent may want to follow the government’s recommendations to vaccinate the child, while the other may worry that the vaccine is too new and could still prove to have long-term, as yet unknown side effects.
In some school districts, unvaccinated children are barred from participating in extracurricular activities. The issues can get complicated because parents could even put their custody rights in jeopardy.
A parent who unilaterally chooses to vaccinate a child may be in contempt of the court order that gave them joint legal custody and could risk losing the right to be involved in the child’s medical care.
If the judge sees that divorcing parents can’t agree on the vaccine issue, he or she may decide that the parents will be unlikely to agree on other major health decisions in the future, and award sole legal custody to one parent.
Every case is unique and fact-specific, and it’s important to consult with an attorney who can review and assess all of the nuances of the situation.
Ronald Lieberman is a shareholder and partner at ALBRM in Haddonfield, New Jersey. He focuses his practice on helping clients navigate all matters relating to divorce and family law to include custody and parenting disputes.