Vaccination and the Effect on Custody When One Parent Opts Out

34 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2020

See all articles by Kristin Pryor

Kristin Pryor

Regent University School of Law

Date Written: May 5, 2020


When it comes to personal and religious beliefs involving their children, parents are presumed to act in the best interests of their children. When a couple separates and requests the court’s intervention in determining the best interest of the child, virtually every decision comes under scrutiny. Vaccination can become a highly contested issue in custody cases. Whether former agreements to forego vaccinations will be upheld depends on the reasons behind the decision and the parent's change of heart. Courts examine the reasons behind a parent’s refusal to vaccinate and determine the credibility of a parent’s change of heart when the decision was made jointly and based on religious beliefs. Ultimately, courts must balance the freedom of religion with the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their child as they see fit and the best interest of the child.

This article examines how the courts address a dispute over vaccination, the history of vaccination, its effects on the decline in disease, vaccine safety, the risks associated with vaccination, objections to vaccination, and the effect on custody in family court when one parent opts out.

Keywords: vaccines, vaccination, immunization, custody, family law, medical, religious, philosophical, exemptions, court

JEL Classification: I, K, Z

Suggested Citation

Pryor, Kristin, Vaccination and the Effect on Custody When One Parent Opts Out (May 5, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Kristin Pryor (Contact Author)

Regent University School of Law ( email )

Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States

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