John T. ChamberlinAttorney at Law
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Child custody and the antivax movement

When you and your spouse got married, it seemed like you shared the same views on most of the important issues in life. You were both conservative about money matters but socially liberal and plugged into the happenings in your Pleasanton community.

So you were very surprised when your spouse started espousing "anti-vaxx" sentiments after the two of you had children. Other cracks in the relationship turned into crevasses. Soon, you both decided to throw in the towel on the marriage.

Most of your issues have been settled, but what remains is a major one — child custody and vaccinating your two children. You demand that they be vaccinated to protect them from the scourge of childhood diseases that are entirely preventable with vaccination. Your spouse refuses to consent, claiming vaccines contain poison and can cause autism.

Where do you go from here?

Living here in California gives your ex-spouse far fewer legal options than most parents in other states. A total of 45 states plus Washington, D.C., allow religious exemptions from vaccinations. An additional 15 states permit parents who object philosophically to vaccinations from being compelled to immunize their children.

In California, however, exemptions from vaccination are only granted for medical reasons. That only applies, however, if the unvaccinated child(ren) attend or will later enroll in public schools. Parents can homeschool their kids or enroll them in private schools that do not require vaccinations.

If that still leaves you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse at loggerheads over the issue, mediation could bring the two of you to the table to civilly discuss the matter. But should mediation not work, the ultimate arbiter will be the family law court. There, the judge will award primary legal custody to either you or your spouse, giving that parent the right to decide whether your child(ren) will indeed be vaccinated.

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
699 Peters Avenue
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Pleasanton, CA 94566

Phone: 925-271-5650
Fax: 925-462-0837
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