What Happens if Divorced Parents Disagree on Vaccination?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “Who pays for the children’s health insurance and co-pays?”


Vaccination is a tricky subject, especially when one parent wants to vaccinate their child while the other parent refuses to. When divorced parents cannot find common ground on the issue of vaccination for their children, it is essential to work with an experienced family lawyer.

vaccination-Monroe-Mooresville-Charlotte-Child-Custody-Attorneys-300x225Below, we will discuss what happens if divorced parents do not agree on vaccination in North Carolina. Contact our attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to determine how you can resolve a vaccination dispute in your particular case.


Resolving Vaccination Disagreements in North Carolina

How to resolve a vaccination dispute when divorced parents cannot reach a consensus on their own? When one parent wants their child to get vaccinated while the other parent refuses vaccination, who wins the argument will depend in large part on whether either parent has sole custody or the two parents share joint custody.

One of the parents has sole legal custody

When one parent has sole legal custody, they have the authority to make medical decisions, including those related to vaccinations. Thus, when divorced parents are not on the same page about vaccinations, the parent with sole legal custody will have the final say.

However, the other parent could ask the court to modify the custody arrangement if they can prove that the decision of their ex-spouse, who has sole custody, is not in the child’s best interests.

Two parents share joint legal custody

When two parents share joint legal custody, their disagreement over vaccinations may be resolved in one of the three ways:

  • Mediation. The parents could try mediation to resolve their vaccination dispute. They would have to work with a neutral, third-party mediator who helps them facilitate the negotiation in order to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
  • Arbitration. The second option is to try arbitration. During the process, the arbitrator will hear both parties and then render a decision. While the arbitration process is very similar to going to court, it is usually quicker and less expensive than traditional litigation.
  • Litigation. Finally, the third option is to go to court and let a judge make a decision that would be in the child’s best interests. However, resolving a vaccination disagreement in front of a judge can take a long time and is usually more expensive than resolving disputes through mediation or arbitration.

Depending on the age and maturity of the child, the judge may talk to the child to find out if they want to get vaccinated. However, the child’s opinion will be only one of many factors that would be considered before rendering a decision.


Are Vaccinations for Children Required Under North Carolina Law?

According to the National Vaccine Information Center, children in North Carolina cannot be exempt from the requirements of vaccination based on a parent’s “personal belief” alone. Under state law, children are not allowed to attend school or childcare facilities if they have not received specific vaccines by the appropriate age.

However, there are two exemptions from North Carolina’s mandatory vaccination requirement:

  • Medical. If the required vaccine could injure or harm the child – and this can be certified by a doctor licensed to practice in the state of North Carolina – parents may use the “medical exemption” to reject vaccination.
  • Religious. If the vaccination mandate goes against parents’ religious beliefs, they may qualify for an exemption.

If you and your ex-spouse disagree on vaccination for your child, it is advised to talk to a North Carolina family lawyer at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to discuss your options. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.






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