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How to Handle Divorce Disagreements Regarding Whether or Not to Vaccinate the Children
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How to Handle Divorce Disagreements Regarding Whether or Not to Vaccinate the Children

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2019 | Divorce

In 1989, a British doctor published a book describing how common vaccines were causing autism in children. From that moment on, the anti-vaccination movement was born. Anti-vaxxers, as they’re commonly known, don’t believe in vaccinating their children, despite many doctors pointing to Dr. Wakefield’s research as flawed or quite possibly even fraudulent.

If you are considering divorce with an anti-vaxxer, you have much to consider. It’s a simple fact that all divorces are somewhat complicated, especially when there are children involved. There are obstacles like visitation, alimony and child support to decide upon, and now whether or not to vaccinate the children.

Before filing for divorce against an anti-vaxxer, you are encouraged to seek the assistance of a qualified and experienced family law attorney. A California divorce lawyer can help you navigate the law, fight for your rights, and get the kids vaccinated to protect their health.

Here are a few points you may want to think about when you and the other parent find yourself arguing over child vaccinations. You say yay, the other parent says nay, and the children are caught in the middle. Here’s how to proceed.

Why Would a Parent Not Vaccinate Their Kids?

One parent wants to vaccinate the children, and the other does not. This situation is becoming more common in California courtrooms than you might suspect.

Even in the most loving of households, few parents agree on every aspect of their children’s upbringing. This holds true especially when one parent has a different parenting style than the other.

Some parents like to spank, and others do not. Some parents disagree on bedtimes and food choices. These differences can contribute to divorce, which can then lead to disagreements over how the children are raised after the Decree has been signed.

When it comes to child vaccinations, some spouses agree to disagree. There are several common reasons why a person may not want to vaccinate their children, including Big Pharma conspiracies, the myth that vaccines are full of toxins, and the hypothesis that many of today’s vaccinations cause autism.

In most cases, the spouse who isn’t keen on vaccinating isn’t being malicious. These parents, too, want what’s best for their children. According to them, avoiding vaccines is the way to go.

How to Sway an Anti-Vaxxer to See the Light

If you are divorcing a spouse who refuses to have the kids vaccinated, you should first attempt to identify why.


Some parents decide to refuse vaccines for their kids because they don’t notice any diseases around them. Why take the risk, they may feel, since you never hear of measles, mumps or rubella anymore?

To sway a complacent parent, explain to your spouse that we never hear of those diseases because vaccines have all but completely wiped them out.


Other parents simply lack confidence in today’s most common vaccines. They may cite stories about certain vaccine ingredients and the adverse effects those substances have on the human body.

A spouse like this can potentially be swayed by providing evidence-based and factual reports from legitimate medical journals.


Whether it originated from a talk show, celebrity tweet or health blog online, some parents live in an echo-chamber, where they only pay attention to the stories that disparage vaccines. These parents feel they don’t need to read medical journals or listen to doctor suggestions that tell us that vaccines are completely safe and necessary for a long and healthy life.

Once again, these parents should be shown evidence from medical journals.

Better yet, you should schedule a free consultation with a doctor so that the anti-vaccinating parent can hear suggestions from an experienced professional.

Getting an Anti-Vaxxer to Inoculate the Children Will Take Time

When you have a parent who cares very deeply about their anti-vaccine stance, whether it’s due to complacency, a lack of confidence, personal belief or misinformation, you’ll have to be patient as you attempt to convince the parent to change his or her mind.

Keep in mind that discussions are two-way avenues. Be prepared to listen to the other parent’s concerns and patiently retort with factual information. Don’t get heated, as that can cause the parent to shut down, which will halt any productive work that may have otherwise taken place.

In order to convince the other parent to vaccinate the children, you should learn to be both a good listener and debater as you present your position and hope for the best.

During Divorce, Emotions Run High

If you and your spouse are on less-than-amicable terms, convincing the other spouse to vaccinate may prove difficult. It’s likely that all discussions are met with hostility, let alone those that may try to sway a critical decision like vaccinating the children.

For times like these, it’s best to always focus on the kids. Family Judges make decisions based on the welfare of the children, and your discussions should be similar in kind. Tell your spouse that you want vaccines because you want the kids to grow up and be healthy.

Your goal should be to help the other parent see that not vaccinating the kids puts them at greater risk than any vaccines could cause. While vaccines are not perfect by any means, they have helped millions of people avoid deadly diseases with little to no risk to their bodies.

A Series of Conversations

Don’t think that you have to change your spouse’s mind all in a single conversation or that such a thing is even possible. It may take multiple conversations, but each one should involve some kind of evidence from you that vaccines work.

You can also mention the case recently of a boy in Oregon who contracted Tetanus, the first case of an infectious disease in the area for over 30 years.

Or how the state of Washington recently experienced an outbreak of measles.

You can also present the anti-vaxxer with important facts regarding vaccines, such as:

  • Infectious diseases used to kill millions of people in the late 19th/early 20th century. The influenza flu pandemic in 1918, for example, resulted in 2 Million deaths globally (500,00 in the US alone).
  • Using data from the 1918 influenza flu pandemic, scientists developed vaccines, which lead to a decline in infectious diseases in the mid-20th century.
  • In 1949, various vaccination campaigns virtually eliminated a wide range of infectious diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis, mumps, rubella, and meningitis.
  • After a ten-year, 33-nation campaign, smallpox was eradicated from the world’s stage in 1977.
  • In 1955, the polio vaccine saved millions of lives, with the disease completely disappearing as of the year 2000.

The fact that vaccines are so effective is the reason why some parents can feel so complacent about giving the necessary inoculations to their children.

Even in the face of facts, the parent against vaccinations may attempt some common tactics to convince you to surrender your position on whether or not to vaccinate the kids. Here is how to overcome some of these objections if and when they’re used.

Objections to Overcome

No One Else is At Risk: Parents who don’t vaccinate their kids argue that it’s their decision and no one else is affected. However, unvaccinated children and adults pose a risk to everyone else, especially the very young, ill, and old, as they may not have the immune systems to resist a disease that could have otherwise been prevented.

Vaccines Lead to Autism: Pop culture has spread this myth, with talk shows and celebrities trying to convince the world that the necessary vaccinations cause autism. However, and in fact, in their review titled, “Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses,” Drs. Gerber and Offit concluded that, “Twenty epidemiologic studies have shown that neither thimerosal nor MMR vaccine causes autism. These studies have been performed in several countries by many different investigators who have employed a multitude of epidemiologic and statistical methods.”

To back up the doctors’ claims, to date up to 100 studies have been conducted finding absolutely no link between vaccinations and autism.

Vaccines Make Others Sick: This myth refers to the tendency of some vaccines to shed after being given. Some anti-vax parents intentionally shield their children from vaccinated kids out of the fear of catching something. While some shedding can occur, only those with extremely compromised immune systems would be adversely affected. If shedding is going to occur in children who have been vaccinated, it helps if everyone around them has also received the necessary CDC-recommended vaccines.

Vaccines Contain Harmful Mercury: Anti-vax parents worried about mercury are usually referring to the additive thimerosal, which was removed from a majority of vaccines in 1999, with the rest removing the additive in 2003. The CDC maintains that vaccines are safe with no harmful additives. And, since the scientists who work at the CDC remain the experts on infectious diseases, we would all be wise to trust them.

A Difficult Decision for Family Court Judges

In most child vaccination cases, both parents are passionate about their positions. You have one side who is fighting to have the kids vaccinated and the other staunchly fighting for their position, to avoid vaccines altogether.

You can see how this would be a difficult decision to make for a family court Judge. In addition to deciding how to split child support, visitation, the family home, and all other assets, Judges now have to contend with issues related to vaccines.

Where to Turn for Family Legal Help

When faced with divorce from an anti-vax parent, it is always recommended that you attempt to settle the matter privately, between the two of you, using some or all of the immunization facts listed above.

The CDC recommends that you do not wait to vaccinate children before they reach 15 months in age. Children entering school are also highly-susceptible to many common diseases.

You should also know about an amendment to the California Health and Safety Code in July of 2016. That amendment states that no child can be admitted or enrolled in any public or private daycare, preschool or traditional school unless they have received the proper inoculations.

The update to the code also eliminated exemptions based on personal or religious beliefs. Only a medical waiver signed by a doctor can allow a child to be exempted from the law.

If your child will be going to school, vaccinations against diphtheria, hepatitis B, influenza, mumps, pertussis, rubella, tetanus, and a few others should be administered as quickly as possible.

You should present these facts to the parent and let the anti-vaxxer know that vaccinating kids is the law.

Of course, if the other parent wants to homeschool, that’s an entirely new obstacle, as homeschooled children can bypass the vaccine law.

Can the Court Order Vaccinations?

The newly updated immunization law does make it possible for the court to order the proper vaccinations. Court ordered vaccinations can overcome an anti-vax parent’s wishes, which will be the likely outcome when acting in the kids’ best interests.

Not only are the necessary vaccinations important for the child’s health, but they also contribute to the child receiving a proper education.

Get the Advice of an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

Issues surrounding a child’s well-being are common in divorce court, and vaccinations are becoming a major point of conflict for many California families. If you are unable to resolve your matter privately with the anti-vaxxer parent, it helps to get the advice of a skilled and qualified California family lawyer.

Only an attorney who is experienced with all aspects of divorce can give you the necessary advice to navigate the law.

Protect your rights, assets, and the safety of your children by calling Griffith, Young, and Lass, now serving clients just like you in Carlsbad and San Diego, California.