If parents are not married, and one parent wants to immunize the child and the other doesn’t, who gets to decide? If you are divorced or you are operating under a child custody order in the State of Texas, one of the first sections in your divorce decree or child custody order will be a section we refer to as “rights and duties”. In an attorney-drafted document, there are four different lists of rights and duties, and they are repeated for each parent, making a total of eight different lists.
The most important are at the end. The different types of rights and duties are:
- Rights that each parent has “at all times” meaning, no matter who the child is with that day. Like the right to get medical records.
- Duties that each parent has “at all times”, like the duty to tell the other parent about anything significant in the child’s life.
- Rights and duties each parent has “during his/her periods of possession” only, like the duty to care for and discipline the child.
- Rights that one parent may have and not the other. Among the rights that one parent may have and not the other is “the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures”.
Most medical professionals consider immunizations to be an “invasive” procedure. If you find that section, either one parent will have it “exclusively”, or the parents will each have it “subject to the agreement of the other parent conservator”, or each parent will have “the independent right.” If one parent is given “the exclusive right”, that parent has the final say. If the parents each have the right “subject to the agreement of the other parent conservator,” then unless both parents agree, no procedure, including immunizations, can occur. If the parents have the “independent right” then either parent can take the child for immunizations during their scheduled time with the child.
Most judges would consider a refusal to immunize a child an abuse of authority.
I want to give you an important warning, though. Most judges would consider a refusal to immunize a child an abuse of that authority. If you have that authority and you refuse to immunize, and the other parent takes you back to court, they will almost definitely be granted not only the right to get the child immunized, but also the exclusive right to make all of those decisions in the future.
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