Within the Age of COVID…Vaccinations are a Contentious Authorized Custody Problem

As family law attorneys, we frequently conduct litigation in custody cases involving issues such as visiting and assistance. In the past few years, we’ve noticed a new issue related to child custody issues: child vaccination litigation.

In California, the court can make custody decisions related to “custody” and “custody”. Decisions about a child’s medical treatment and general well-being are generally at the discretion of the parents. A parent with sole legal custody is expected to make all medical decisions for the child. However, parents who share custody together can in some cases have very different opinions when faced with these important decisions.

With vaccinations, there are times when one parent wants to vaccinate the child while the other parent objects. Objections can be medical, religious, or philosophical in nature and are often referred to as exceptions to personal belief.

What is California Vaccination Law?

California’s new Vaccination Act SB276 went into effect January 1, 2020 and is designed to make it more difficult for parents to obtain illegal medical exemptions that allow children to avoid vaccinations. Medical exemptions are allowed for children with compromised immune systems who cannot safely receive certain vaccines. Exceptions to personal or religious beliefs are no longer available.

This new law states that no child may be admitted or enrolled in any public or private daycare, preschool or traditional school if they are not vaccinated. This update removes exceptions based on personal beliefs. This change highlights the important role vaccination plays in public health.

Required vaccinations include:

  • diphtheria
  • Hepatitis B.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b
  • measles
  • mumps
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • poliomyelitis
  • rubella
  • tetanus
  • Varicella (chickenpox).

According to the updated Vaccination Act, the court can order vaccination of a child if the parents’ personal beliefs differ. If one parent wants to vaccinate but the others object, the court may have the child vaccinated. Courts make decisions based on what they consider to be the “best interests of the child,” and recent rulings in California seem to suggest that the court prefers to give decision-making powers to parents who are best able to manage one Make informed health decisions about vaccinations. Court-ordered vaccinations are more common under the new law, as a lack of vaccinations can prevent a child from receiving adequate education.

What does this mean for the Covid-19 vaccine?

The first introduction of the COVID-19 vaccination has begun in the USA. The vaccine is expected to be widely used by the end of 2021. In November 2020, Pfizer expanded its studies to test children aged 12 and over. Moderna followed shortly afterwards. Doctors, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, predict that a vaccine for children could be available by mid to late 2021.

This begs the question: is the Covid 19 vaccine treated like the other required vaccinations in California and elsewhere? What if you don’t want your child to be vaccinated? Do you have recourse before the courts?

If your COVID-19 vaccination dispute goes to court, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Evidence support / against vaccinations: In court, both parents have the option to present evidence of their position regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. In general, each parent’s personal opinions are unlikely to carry much weight in court. Rather, consideration should be given to providing statements from the child’s medical providers (e.g. the child’s pediatrician) about the child’s medical history and statements from medical experts who support or advise against the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Parental involvement: In making its decision, the court can also take into account which parent was most involved in the child’s medical care in the past.

Ultimately, the court will balance these above factors, among other things, to determine what is in the best interests of the child.

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