Child Custody in the Context of Disputes over Vaccination and Medical Interventions

Physical custody: where your child actually resides.

Legal custody: grants the parent decision making ability for the child, including medical, educational, religious, among others topics.

Sometimes a court will grant joint parents joint physical and/or legal custody, or other combinations, such as sole physical/joint legal or sole legal/joint physical custody.

In the context of medical decisions, courts will often look to parenting or divorce decrees that set forth which parent possess control over the child’s medical issues (i.e., legal custody for medical issues specifically). Usually, courts will adhere to the decree if it provides one parent sole control over the child’s medical decisions. However, often times parents have split-agreements which permit joint decision making concerning the child’s medical decisions, and these are the cases that can become particularly contentious.

Unless the two parents can find a way to negotiate through informal discussions, alternative dispute resolution (i.e., mediation), courts can get involved to decide which parent should be given control over the child’s medical decisions. The key factors that courts will examine in order to determine this include a totality of the circumstances analysis. In other words, the courts will look to a long list of different factors. These factors are analyzed under the “best interest of the child” standard.

Some of these factors are:

  • The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child;
  • The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow visitation not based on substantiated abuse;
  • The interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings;
  • The history of domestic violence, if any;
  • The safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
  • The preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision;
  • The needs of the child;
  • The stability of the home environment offered;
  • The quality and continuity of the child’s education;
  • The fitness of the parents;
  • The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes;
  • The extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation;
  • The parents’ employment responsibilities; and
  • The age and number of children.
  • Any other factor the court wishes to consider.

What Can Stavola Law Do To Help?

If you and your spouse/partner (or former spouse/partner) disagree about medical decisions or vaccine decisions for your child/children, an attorney can assist in navigating this field. Mr. Stavola can assist you in building your case before the court, and advocating that the best interest of the child standard militates in your favor, so that you can gain control over your child’s medical decisions.