Some parents have had very strong feelings about vaccinations for children for decades now. And in the past few years, vaccine debates have only become more top of mind.
Minnesota requires a number of vaccinations for children enrolled in schools and child care facilities. As in other states, parents can apply for exemptions from vaccinations if they have “conscientiously held beliefs” against them.
What if you and your co-parent disagree?
What if you and your co-parent, who share physical and legal custody of your child, disagree about getting them vaccinated prior to the start of the school year? If both parents have the right under their custody order to make medical decisions for their child (which is typically part of legal custody), sometimes they have no choice but to go back to court and present their case for what’s in their child’s best interests. Sometimes they could even end up back in court after one parent has gotten the child vaccinated against the other parent’s wishes.
Of course, it’s better if you can resolve the matter on your own without putting the decision in the hands of a judge. Further, you can’t count on a quick resolution if you go to court. These generally aren’t considered emergency situations that require an immediate court date.
Many pediatricians won’t knowingly go against a parent’s wishes
If you’re the one who wants your child to have all recommended vaccinations and your co-parent is fighting you, don’t count on your pediatrician to be of much help. Most try to stay out of parental disputes. For that reason, five years ago the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) told its members that when it comes to vaccinating children, “It is prudent for the physician to inquire about marital status and custody issues when relevant.”
A parent likely isn’t going to lose custody rights for having their child vaccinated against the other parent’s wishes when the vast majority of pediatricians recommend vaccinations. However, it likely won’t help your co-parenting relationship going forward.
If you and your co-parent can sit down and discuss the matter calmly, present your evidence and agree to have an open mind, you might be able to reach a compromise or even change someone’s mind. However, if you can’t do that, you may need to have a court resolve the issue for you. Having legal guidance can help.