What Happens When Divorces Parents Disagree On Vaccination?

For parents in the 21st century, nothing is as polarizing as the decision to withhold vaccinations from your child. Physicians, lawmakers, and the majority of Americans strongly believe that immunizations are critical to our health and safety as individuals and as a society. A small but growing minority of parents are suspicious and fearful of these vaccines, believing them to be more dangerous than the diseases they aim to prevent.

Divorced parents rarely see eye to eye on everything. And some issues are so important that it may be necessary to ask the courts for help. When divorced parents disagree on vaccination, what are family courts in South Carolina likely to do? The answer is highly dependent on the unique facts and circumstances in your case.

South Carolina Vaccination Requirements and Exemptions

South Carolina has relatively lax immunization requirements compared to other states. All students entering public or private schools and daycares are required to show proof that they are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Colleges and universities in South Carolina are allowed to set their own vaccination policies. Homeschooled students are not required to be immunized.

Like most other states, the Palmetto State allows exemptions to the vaccination requirements for medical or religious reasons. However, South Carolina does not make exceptions for families with philosophical or personal objections to vaccines.

Legal Decision Making in South Carolina

If you are awarded sole legal custody of your child, only you have the legal right and responsibility to make decisions for them. You will have the final say on whether to vaccinate your child. However, the child’s noncustodial parent can always petition the court to have your child custody order modified. A judge must decide what is in the best interest of the child—and an unwillingness to vaccinate your children may not be in your favor.

If you share joint legal custody of your child with your ex, both of you have the right to make medical decisions and other important choices. If you and your child’s other parent cannot come to an agreement, the decision can be litigated in court. A judge may require you to go to mediation before setting a court date for your hearing.

At your hearing, a judge will listen to the arguments on both sides before making the decision they believe is in the best interest of the child. Sometimes, the solution is to award only one parent sole rights to legal decision making. Although immunization requirements are the law in South Carolina, sole legal custody will not automatically be granted to the pro-vaccination parent. A judge has many factors to consider in child custody decisions, including which parent is more involved and invested in the child’s medical care and upbringing. One parent’s opposition to vaccination is likely not enough to deny custody rights to a good parent.

Get Help Today

If you need help protecting or modifying your child custody order, contact the experienced family law attorneys at McCoy & Stokes, LLC. We are a full-service family law firm in Charleston, SC ready to assist you with your divorce, custody, domestic support, or family law issue. Call us today at (843) 628-2855.