Vaccinations, Custody Fights and Rights

Generally decisions regarding a child’s medical treatment and overall well being are made at the discretion of the parents. A parent with sole custody is expected to make any and all medical decisions for the child. Parents who jointly share legal custody can, in some cases, have very different opinions when faced with these important decisions. In the case of vaccinations, there are times when one parent wishes to vaccinate the child while the other parent objects. Objections can be medical, religious, or philosophical by nature and are often referred to as personal belief exemptions.

Health & Wellness Requirements

As of July 1st, 2016, state legislature amended the Health and Safety Code. The new law states the no child can be admitted or enrolled in any public or private daycare, preschool or traditional school unless they are immunized. This update eliminated exemptions based on personal beliefs. This change cites the important role of immunizations in the arena of public health.

Required immunizations include:

  •      Diphtheria
  •      Hepatitis B
  •      Haemophilus Influenzae Type B
  •      Measles
  •      Mumps
  •      Pertussis (whooping cough)
  •      Poliomyelitis
  •      Rubella
  •      Tetanus
  •      Varicella (chickenpox).

The only exception still allowed by California law is a medical waiver signed by a doctor. Personal or religious belief exemptions are no longer available. Medical waivers must be regularly updated in order to maintain the child’s exemption status. Parents of children who are home schooled or do not attend a daycare or preschool can still avoid immunizations. Additionally, children with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) who are not immunized will not have their plan’s accommodations and benefits affected, but will still not be permitted to enroll in school.

Court Ordered Vaccinations

Under the updated immunization law, it is possible for the court to order vaccinations. Court ordered vaccinations can be called for and occur when the personal beliefs of the parents differ. If one parent wishes to vaccinate, but the other objects, it is possible the court will step in and order the child vaccinated. Court ordered vaccinations are more likely under the new law since a lack of vaccinations can prevent a child from receiving proper education.

While the law seems much more black and white than previous versions, there remain “gray areas” when it comes to immunization. Potential claims against court ordered vaccination can be based on the age of the child, the formal definition of “grade span”, and any prior personal belief waivers in place.

Vaccinations may be a contentious Legal Custody Issue

Issues surrounding raising your child are a point of conflict in many child custody agreements. You should be aware of your rights and make sure that your actions comply with California law. If you are looking for an experienced family law attorney, contact online or call the office of Charles D. Stark in Sonoma County at 707.527.9900. He can assist you in all of your divorce needs including issues regarding child custody.

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