Custody Agreements and COVID-19 Vaccinations
As the COVID-19 pandemic nears its second year, we are hopeful that the new vaccines will finally bring lockdown to an end and allow Californians to go back to a sense of normalcy. For many older individuals and those who are immunocompromised, a vaccine is necessary to withstand the full brunt of COVID-19. But for divorced parents, vaccinations may be a difficult subject to agree on, especially if one parent does not believe in them.
When Your Ex Does Not Believe in Vaccinations
Anti-vaccination sentiments have been common since the early ‘90s, with several celebrities raising questions about their side effects and effectiveness. This attitude has risen substantially in the past few years. While reports say that as of December 2020, more than 60% of people in the United States will choose to get a COVID-19 vaccination, at least 18% claimed they would not get vaccinated, and 39% are undecided, according to Pews Research.
The dangers of vaccines have been heavily disputed by numerous research groups, so as a divorced parent, you may face difficulties convincing your ex of the importance of vaccinating your child against COVID-19. They may not believe that the vaccine will protect your child, assume that it will have negative side effects, or subscribe to a misinformed conspiracy theory.
In any case, if they refuse to have your child vaccinated or want to bar you from vaccinating your children, you may face certain legal challenges depending on your custody agreement.
What Are California’s Laws on Vaccinations?
California has a Vaccination Law, covered under California Health and Safety Code 120325-120375, which has removed the “personal belief exemption” from vaccination requirements for California schools. This law legally requires parents to vaccinate their children if they wish their children to attend public or private schools in California. However, this law does not apply to COVID-19 vaccinations and only requires vaccinations for:
- Hepatitis B
- Haemophilus Influenza Type B
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Any other disease deemed appropriate by the California Department of Health and Human Services
Who Decides Whether a Child Gets Vaccinated?
In the state of California, the parent who has legal custody has the final say on vaccinations. Legal custody means that a parent has the right to make certain legal, educational, and healthcare decisions for a child, which include vaccinations. If you have sole legal custody, then you do not need the other parent’s permission to vaccinate your child against COVID-19.
However, if you and your ex have joint legal custody or your ex has sole legal custody, then you may need their permission. You may be dragged into messy arguments if they are staunchly against vaccinations, in order to protect your child. In this case, you may need to petition a California judge for an emergency custody order to gain sole legal custody. However, these cases can be incredibly complex, and a judge will base the decision on the best interests of your child.
If you are facing difficulties in your child custody agreement, contact the San Diego family law attorneys at Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. We have more than 45 years of experience and are not afraid to tackle difficult cases, including contentious custody disputes. We can review your case in a free initial consultation and develop a detailed plan to advocate for your child’s best interests. To get started, call us at (858) 458-9500.