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To vax or not to vax: When co-parents disagree

One of the current hot-button issues for parents is whether to vaccinate their children or not. Common sense dictates that preventing kids from contracting potentially life-threatening diseases should be a parent's priority. Still, there are many earnest parents who believe the risk of developing autism and other problems increases with early childhood vaccinations.

Any parent who has dragged a screaming toddler into the doctor's office for a shot can attest to the trauma surrounding the experience -- from both the perspective of the parent and the child. It can be upsetting for all concerned.

Regardless, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jointly recommend that all healthy kids be vaccinated against more than a dozen contagious diseases by their second birthdays. They will require booster shots later.

What happens when parents split up and they have differing ideas on vaccinating their children? Whose views will prevail?

The question ultimately comes down to the custody status of the children in question. Does one parent have sole custody or do they share joint and legal custody of their kids? This matters, because if one parent has sole custody, they can make the health care decisions for the child.

However, because vaccinations typically are given when children are toddlers or younger, neither parent may have yet petitioned the Tennessee family law courts for custody. If parents are not on the same page with this issue, it's likely that contention could arise over the issue.

The decision to vaccinate or not could even potentially become a flashpoint in the custody issue if one parent alleges that their anti-vaxxer co-parent is being neglectful by not getting the child vaccinated.

Mainstream medical journals do not share the anti-vaxxers fears that vaccinations cause autism in children. The author of the original publication that sparked this debate has since been debunked by his peers, in part because he failed to reveal potential conflicts of interests from his relationships with attorneys involved in vaccine litigation.

If you are going through a divorce and are concerned that your ex shares anti-vaxxer's views, this should be immediately addressed with your attorney if you feel that your child is at risk of harm.

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