Most parents want what is best for their children, especially when it comes to medical decisions. In recent years, vaccinations have become a controversial subject. So what happens when parents have disagreements about vaccinations? A good child custody lawyer can help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a parent and provide the legal counsel you need to protect your child’s health and interests.
Pennsylvania Rules about Child Vaccinations
Pennsylvania public health rules require children who attend school to be vaccinated against polio, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and chickenpox. In addition, the meningococcal conjugate vaccine is required for middle-school and high-school-aged children. However, exceptions are allowed for religious, medical, or philosophical reasons. A COVID-19 vaccine is not available for children yet, so it is unclear whether it will be required by the Commonwealth.
How Are Vaccination Disagreements Resolved?
Ideally, coming to an agreement about vaccinating your children would happen outside of a courtroom and be included in a parenting plan. However, if separated or divorced parents cannot resolve the issue on their own, the court will have to become involved. Generally, courts make their decisions based on the child’s best interests. One factor that can affect the amount of say you have in whether your child is immunized depends on the type of custody you have.
When parents have joint legal custody of their children, each parent has an equal voice when making decisions that affect their child’s health, education, religious upbringing, and other important decisions. Typically, if you have sole legal custody, whether you have your child immunized is up to you. However, if one co-parent strongly disagrees with the other about vaccinations, he/she can file a petition with the court. Regardless of which side of the issue you are on, it is critical to have your divorce lawyer advise you on the best way to proceed to safeguard your child’s rights.
Options for Settling Vaccination Disagreements
Judges prefer not to make these kinds of decisions, but in some cases, it is the only way to resolve a dispute. A judge will take different factors into consideration, and may ask for input from a child’s pediatrician. If one parent has sole legal custody of a child, the judge will definitely look at how that decision came to be and why the other parent is barred from making these types of important decisions.
Although compromise may seem impossible, mediation is another way to find common ground before filing a petition with the court. The best custody and child support lawyers are skilled negotiators who may be able to persuade parents to see things in a different light. For example, if you want your child to have all childhood vaccinations, but your co-parent does not, a good compromise could be to agree to a vaccination schedule that is spread-out over a longer period of time instead of vaccinations being given according to a traditional administration schedule.
Another option you may choose to settle a dispute is to go to binding arbitration. In this type of proceeding, a qualified professional such as a family law attorney hears each party’s evidence and arguments and then reaches a final decision by whicht both parties must abide. Unlike a mediator, an arbitrator does not facilitate negotiations. Both parents are responsible for paying the costs of binding arbitration.
If you are concerned about vaccinations or other medical treatment for your child, an experienced Pennsylvania family lawyer can help you fight aggressively to protect his/her rights. Contact here.