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Vaccinations and child custody disputes

For most divorcing parents, child custody is a significant point of contention. Psychologists tend to agree that maintaining relationships with both parents is typically best for children. However, disagreements about medical treatments may escalate concerns about a child’s well-being.

Vaccinations, created to defend against infectious disease, typically begin at birth. And although parents may not agree on whether withholding an immunization is best for their child, would doing so constitute neglect?

Why don’t parents vaccinate their kids?

Some “anti-vaxxers” refuse all immunizations to exercise their right to choose. Others might decline specific injections.

However, there are four commonly expressed reasons for hesitancy. These include:

  • Adverse reactions. Often due to media contributions, fear of negative side effects is the most frequent determining factor in withholding a vaccine.
  • Spiritual beliefs. Fetal and animal-derived compounds used to manufacture some vaccines may directly oppose an individual’s religious affiliation.
  • Personal philosophy. Some parents prefer natural immunity. In rare instances of exposure, the assumption is that a child’s body would form its own defense.
  • Insufficient information. Limited time with a clinician can raise questions about whether parents understand the potential risks that could accompany their decision.

Despite governmental health recommendations, parents desperately try to make choices they believe are in the best interests of their children. However, in some cases, this has convinced a court to issue a ruling based on neglect.

Withholding preventative treatment versus providing care

The current pandemic raised anxiety around the world. And as solutions for averting the crisis frequently met head-on with concerns about long-term effects, it’s likely that some parents still have a difficult decision to make.

Many experts assert that not vaccinating a child endangers him or her. Yet, should an immunization record, or lack thereof, be reason to separate a child from their father or mother?

The Tennessee Department of Health recognizes religious exemption from immunizations. As such, forcing a child to receive shots may infringe on your co-parent’s freedom.

In terms of whether vaccine refusal constitutes child abuse and correlated custody orders, that’s for a court to decide.