What happens when coparents disagree about vaccination?

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2022 | Child Custody

Vaccination has become a hot topic over the past year. Washington state has long required children to receive certain immunizations in order to attend school or childcare. The state also allows certain medical and religious exemptions from vaccination. In addition, Washington allows parental consent to a child’s vaccination to be waived.

The Coronavirus vaccine is not currently required for children to attend school. If you and your coparent disagree on whether to vaccinate your child, it can be difficult to find a common middle ground. This has led to a marked uptick in vaccination-related cases going to court.

Shared decision making

For married couples who have no pending divorce, one parent can legally take their child to get vaccinated without obtaining permission from the other. However, if you and your ex-spouse have shared legal custody over your child, you are expected to make joint decisions about issues surrounding their upbringing – including medical care.

Taking the issue to court

The release of the coronavirus vaccine has led to a proliferation of information – and misinformation – about the vaccine and the virus itself. This has resulted in many coparents falling on opposing sides of the issue and asking a court to intervene. If you find yourself in this position, it’s important to understand some of the key factors the court may consider:

  • Sourcing: If you are presenting medical information in support of your stance, make sure your sources are reliable and robust. The court will consider evidence from expert medical journals to be more compelling than evidence from blog posts.
  • History: The court may want to understand whether you have given your child other vaccines in the past, and whether you followed a regular vaccination schedule.
  • Threshold: The court may seek to understand whether there are certain conditions that are preventing one parent from supporting vaccination. For example, would FDA approval or a certain amount of additional testing change their mind? Outright refusal may be viewed less favorably by the court.

It’s also worth noting that while one parent may claim a religious objection to their child’s vaccination, the other parent still has a right to keep their child healthy – and the wellbeing of a child is the top priority of the court. Unless the child has a diagnosed medical issue that prevents them from being vaccinated, it is likely that a court will rule in favor of vaccination.