Sharing legal custody when you disagree about whether to immunize your children
A client recently asked what she should do now that her ex and she share legal custody, but ex is against immunizations. Either parent can file a motion (Request for Order) to have a legal custody order modified so that it is specific to certain decisions. Thus Legal Custody can be limited in that the decision regarding immunizations, is granted to only one parent. That parent has the sole legal right to make decisions whether to immunize and which immunizations to accept and which to decline. The Court can and should allocate that aspect of legal custody decision making authority to one parent per Family Code §3083. The court will, or should consider the quality of each parent’s approach to gathering information and making medical decisions. In light of the science, and strong public policy concerns, it should not be a hard call.
One such approach could be to ascertain what research evidence is available to support each parent's beliefs and what decision-making process was followed. For example, having had a case of chicken pox as a child protects an adult against shingles, which can have lifelong and devastating consequences. Parents may have different reasons for believing different things and some are more "proven" than others, but there is research available on some issues.
It may be helpful to see published, scientifically valid references on the various issues and vaccines, and to compare them with current medical practice. What percentage of pediatricians, and/or scientific opinion, supports a particular point of view?