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Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody & Divorce

Updated July 19, 2023

Divorce and Vaccines

Q: My spouse and I decided not to vaccinate our child. We have now decided to divorce and my spouse wants to vaccinate our child. What can I do? Can the court require that I vaccinate our child?

A: This is a difficult situation and qualified legal counsel is needed to assist in resolving the dispute. In general, it is best if both parties can negotiate a reasonable vaccination plan, which recognizes potential risks to the child's health and respects both parents concerns and personal beliefs. NVIC does not provide testimony or documents in custody or divorce proceedings.

For children, who have previously experienced vaccine reactions and have a medical waiver on file, it is very important to work with a qualified and trusted health care professional who can help determine what course of action should be taken. If, however, children were previously unvaccinated due to deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs or for reasons of conscience, it will be important for the parents to respectfully negotiate vaccination decisions for their children.

There are a subset of attorneys in the American Trial Lawyers Association who specialize in vaccine injury cases and take them through the federal vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) but most do not handle family court cases where divorcing parents are using a child’s vaccination status to gain custody. Most of case law in the state courts over the past 25 years usually finds judges siding with the parent who wants to vaccinate the child and awards custody to that parent.

Because the courts reflect the culture, until the culture and majority views about vaccination change in the U.S., the trend for court rulings to support a one-size-fits-all vaccination schedule is likely to continue. That is especially true at the Supreme Court level, which is why NVIC is opposed to driving a religious exemption case to the Supreme Court to challenge the seminal Jacobson v Massachusetts (1905) ruling and more than a century of case law upholding that ruling endorsing mandatory vaccination in the U.S.

Parents may consider contacting Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) for information on how to locate an attorney who has a record of successfully representing parents in custody cases. NVIC provides additional information on other organizations concerned about vaccine safety within our extensive collection of resources located here.

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