What Happens When Parents Disagree on Vaccines?

What Happens When Parents Disagree on Vaccines?

Disputes over child custody and visitation arrangements happen all the time. These disagreements are often about a parent’s alleged problematic behavior. Sometimes, though, disputes can arise over immunization of children. One parent doesn’t want to vaccinate the kids, leaving the other parent at a loss over what to do. This issue is likely to come up more frequently if and when a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, as it will be a brand-new vaccine about which some people will be skeptical.

In these disputes, the child’s schooling becomes a primary concern. New York school vaccination requirements have recently changed. Up until 2019, students had to have all their required vaccines in order to attend school unless they had a medical exemption from a licensed doctor or the parents signed an affidavit stating that vaccinations were against the family’s religious beliefs.

Today, according to the New York State Department of Health, only the medical exemption is valid. Religious exemptions are no longer allowed. This means that all pre-K through 12th grade students in New York must be vaccinated in order to attend school unless they have a valid medical reason to remain unvaccinated. This covers all types of schools: public, private and religious. The vaccines required for school attendance are:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (Dtap/DTP/Tdap)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Polio
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY)
  • Influenza type b conjugate (HiB)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV)

Schooling aside, parents may still disagree on vaccinations. When this occurs, courts look first to the custody arrangement and specifically who has legal custody. This legal status pertains to making decisions concerning children’s education, religious upbringing and health and medical care. In rare cases, one parent may have sole legal custody, entitling him or her to make all decisions regarding the child’s medical and health care. More often, the parents have joint legal custody, which means they must make these decisions together.

When a disagreement over vaccination breaks out, co-parents may go to mediation to attempt to resolve the issue. The alternative is to have the issue decided by a judge, who will hear from both sides and then determine whether vaccination is in the best interest of the child. If you are concerned about your child’s medical care and vaccinations and would like to know more about your legal rights to make decisions, the Long Island custody lawyers at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C., are here to help. Please call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.

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