Vaccination proponents and those who are against mandatory vaccinations (often called “anti-vaxxers”) have been all over the news. Celebrities and politicians have come out on both sides of the issue, making the debate very highly contested. For the most part, the issue of whether or not to vaccinate children was largely a philosophical discussion. This was especially true in child custody cases where parties shared joint legal custody. Typically, one parent would want to have a child vaccinated and another parent would not. The reasons for not wanting the vaccination could be medical, religious, or part of a philosophical objection often referred to as a personal belief exception.
This often left the court in the difficult spot of deciding whether the or not to order the vaccinations. In these cases, the child’s doctor might recommend the vaccination, but if the objection was religious or philosophical how was the court to decide?
All of that changed on July 1, 2016, when the legislature amended the Health and Safety Code after passing Senate Bill 277 in June 2015. Here is a link to the new statutes.
The new laws state that no child shall be admitted or enrolled in any public or private daycare, preschool or traditional school unless they are immunized. The only exception is a medical waiver signed by a doctor. There is no longer a personal beliefs exception or a religious beliefs exception available to avoid immunizing a child who will attend a school or daycare of any kind. The only way to avoid immunizing your child is to get a waiver signed by a doctor exempting them from the immunization. The waiver is not a “one time deal” either; parents will need to have the waiver updated periodically.
Parents are still allowed to avoid immunizations so long as their children are home schooled or do not attend a daycare or preschool. Furthermore, if your child has been provided an Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) then their failure to be immunized will not impact the accommodations and benefits provided for by their IEP, but they will not be allowed to enroll in school.
As a family law attorney it is not my job to tell a parent whether or not their child should be immunized, but it is my job to make sure they are in compliance with all current laws. The new laws have made the issue of immunizations very clear – at least from a family law perspective. Unless your child’s doctor will sign a medical exemption, your child must be immunized in order to attend public or private daycares, preschools, or traditional schools.
The changes to the Health and Safety Code may appear to be very black and white, but like all laws they are not that simple. There are a lot of specifics related to the age of a child, the “grade span” they are in currently, prior personal belief waivers, etc. that make the new law difficult to maneuver. A qualified family law attorney can assist in walking your through the new law and explaining how the changes could impact your case.
Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.