What happens when divorced parents disagree about their children getting the Covid-19 vaccine? 

This week the FDA approved emergency use of the Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15 years old. Vaccinating children can be a controversial decision for many parents; for divorced co-parents, there are even more added layers of complexity. Namely, if one parent doesn’t want their child or teen to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, who has the legal say in what happens next? 

Let’s take a look at divorced parents’ vaccine rights and how disagreements over the Covid-19 vaccine may be resolved.

Co-parenting and vaccines: what are your rights?

The answer to this question can be found within language of your custody agreement. 

When co-parents decide custody of their children in divorce, they must come to an agreement on where their kids will primarily live and how they will split their time between their parents. This is called physical custody. Parents must also decide a second form of custody — legal custody — that pertains to how parents will make certain decisions for their children concerning education, religious upbringing and health and medical care, including vaccines. 

Legal custody, just like physical custody, can be shared or sole. In a sole legal custody arrangement, the parent awarded legal custody is able to make all decisions concerning medical and health care. However, it’s more common for the courts to award shared legal custody, which means co-parents share decision-making responsibilities, including decisions about vaccines. 

What happens when co-parents disagree over vaccines? 

Whether legal custody is shared or sole, if a disagreement over vaccination breaks out, co-parents generally have the ability to go to mediation or court to have their concerns heard and the issue resolved. 

When one co-parent has sole legal custody…

If prior to the divorce, both parents were in general agreement about vaccines, but now the parent with sole legal custody is vehemently anti-vaccine, the courts could view this as a substantial change in circumstances that places the child at risk and may consider a motion to modify legal custody from sole to shared legal custody, or make other decisions. 

When co-parents have shared legal custody…

If the co-parents share legal custody, they can try to work through their differences on their own, hopefully with input from the child’s pediatrician and CDC vaccine fact sheets and other sources. If needed, the objecting parent could request mediation to work out a solution, or go to court if a compromise can not be reached. The courts can evaluate what is in the best interests of the child. 

What other factors can the courts look at? We now have a better window into the court’s thinking thanks to a recent child welfare case in which the courts sided with the Department of Child Protection & Permanency to enforce childhood vaccination over parental objections.

Do you have Covid vaccine concerns, or are you battling your ex to get your kids vaccinated? We can help you understand your legal parental rights to making health decisions for your child. Safeguard your children. Contact us today at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.

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