As more children are now eligible to receive the COVID vaccine, more and more parents who are involved in the guardianship of their children are squabbling over whether their children will get the vaccination. “One in five cases that hit my office these days involves a disagreement over giving a COVID-19 vaccine to children,” says a California family law attorney. Brent Caspar.
It’s the latest in the COVID-related controversies that Caspar has seen over the past two years. “There was a lot of disagreement among parents about wear the mask, whether they should change their behavior by not attending events in large venues, and other COVID safety issues, he says. “This flows through a division into Vaccines. It seems to follow the political bickering that people are getting into.”
The unique feature of the COVID vaccination controversy is that there is little room for negotiation. With masking and other mitigation strategies, there are usually opportunities for situational application and flexibility. But with the COVID vaccine, it’s all or nothing. “I encourage parents to be rational. But the problem with vaccinations is that they are a zero-sum condition, so parents are more likely to dig in their heels,” Caspar says.
If your partner won’t allow you to vaccinate your children, this is what you need to know about the legal playing field for a solution.
What does the custody agreement say?
In California, where Kaspar is practiced, there are two types of imprisonment. Physical custody dictates which parent the child lives with and what visitation rights are. On the other hand, legal custody gives parents decision-making rights in areas such as education and medical care. “The default in legal custody is usually 50/50 between the parents, regardless of physical custody,” Caspar says. “Parents have a mutual obligation to make decisions in the best interests of the child.”
Therefore, even though your child may live with you most of the time and you attend to most, if not all, of their medical appointments, you cannot make a unilateral decision to get them vaccinated unless you are granted primary legal custody. “A parent with physical custody can make decisions in an emergency, but big issues like Vaccines You will need to discuss it beforehand.”
See CDC guidelines and local vaccine mandates
‘Judges really hate participating in Shared parenting issuesCaspar says. “And I think they really hate getting involved in this kind of issue because they’re not doctors. So they just look at the CDC. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] Guidelines and try to follow the mandates, because those were considered in everyone’s best interest.”
However, mandates differ from state to state and can sometimes differ even at the local level. For example, California Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required for middle school and high school students to attend school in-person, once the vaccine has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But it’s almost impossible to imagine a similar mandate passing in Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring schools from issuing mask mandates.
“In California, it would be in the child’s best interest to follow instructions so that they can participate fully in school,” Caspar says. “So, as a parent who wants to vaccinate your child, you have a lot to do because the judge will likely side with the parent who follows the mandates.”
On the other hand, parents who resist vaccination in places that require it may open the door to challenging their guardianship status. “If the judge feels that you are not a proper parent because you go against an order and common knowledge, you can be considered unfit. Being around an improper parent is not in the best interest of the child. Therefore, this is where people need to proceed with caution here.”
But fighting in jurisdictions that do not have vaccine requirements or mandates and will have nothing more than an uphill battle. In this scenario, hiring an attorney to present the case, order, and debate before a judge would be an expensive and highly speculative procedure.
Caspar realizes that custody battles are complex, but advises parents to do everything in their power to find solutions without taking disputes to court. “I always try to remind parents that they are both parenting. So even if you are going through a stretch divorce The process, which is controversial, my advice to people is that since they will be co-parenting until the child is 18, the best course of action here is to try and work together.”