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Co-Parenting & COVID-19 Vaccination Disputes

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Recently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was cleared for use for children ages 5-11, making it the only COVID-19 vaccine that’s currently available to young children. Although others may follow, not all parents in the U.S. are on board with giving them this vaccine.

Due to fears and skepticism about the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed, there has been much hesitancy among adults in the U.S. on whether or not to get the shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 59.9% of Americans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, despite around 70% of Americans receiving at least one dose.

These numbers indicate that vaccine skepticism may be a considerable factor to consider when it comes to whether or not adults who have held out on inoculation will prevent their children from getting the vaccine as well. This makes vaccination yet another difficult topic for divorced parents who disagree on the issue to deal with.

Can One Parent Prevent a Child’s Vaccination against COVID-19?

Parents with legal custody of a child can make determinations about the kind of healthcare the child receives. In a situation where only one parent has legal custody of a child, making these decisions can be fairly easy if only because the other parent’s input carries no weight.

For example: If a parent with sole legal custody doesn’t want their child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, then the other parent has no legal standing to challenge that decision unless they first wish to modify the custody arrangement. This scenario applies vice versa, as well.

Joint Legal Custody Means Joint Decision-Making

If both parents enjoy joint legal custody, though, each parent’s input carries equal weight. Should a disagreement concerning a healthcare matter like COVID-19 vaccination arise, parents with joint legal custody must refer to their co-parenting plan and try to reach a conclusion on their own.

But with an issue that’s so hotly debated and argued on a grander scale in society, finding a solution at home can be easier said than done. If the co-parenting plan fails to help parents resolve a dispute about vaccinating their child against COVID-19, then they can try to resolve the issue through mediation or litigation.

What If I’m in the Middle of My Divorce?

If your divorce hasn’t settled, and you and your spouse disagree about vaccinating your child, then you may need to have the court settle this matter in a separate hearing. Coming to court with evidence and expert testimony that supports your point of view can convince the judge to let you decide whether or not your child gets the COVID-19 vaccine.

Can I Sue If My Child’s Other Parent over Giving/Refusing My Child the Vaccine?

Yes. If you have sole legal custody to your child or a court order, and your child’s other parent takes action contrary to your wishes or in violation of the court order, you can seek legal retribution. This can lead to a change in the custody or visitation agreement, and may even lead to contempt of court charges for the other parent.

Contact Us for Legal Guidance

If you have a family law issue concerning the COVID-19 vaccine, our attorneys at Claery & Hammond, LLP are here to help. We have many years of legal experience that we use to support our clients and their objectives every day.

For more information about how we can help you, contact us online.


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