What if my co-parent and I disagree on vaccination?

| Dec 9, 2020 | Child Custody |

For many years, vaccination was widely viewed as a positive advancement in modern medicine. However, in recent years, it has become a contested subject in some circles.

2020 has brought its own set of challenges – and there has been widespread disagreement about appropriate responses to the pandemic. As Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are working overtime to bring coronavirus vaccines to market, you and your ex-spouse may be in disagreement on whether vaccination is the right choice for your child. What are your rights and options in such cases?

Who gets to decide?

Your child custody order will play a key role in how decisions are made regarding your child’s vaccination. There are two categories of child custody that the court will assign – physical and legal. Each type of custody may be assigned to one or both parents.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives – with one or both parents. Legal custody refers to the decision-making power that each parent has in terms of important child-rearing decisions – such as religion, education and medical care.

If you have sole legal custody of your child, you’ll be allowed to decide on your own whether or not to vaccinate. If you have joint legal custody with your co-parent, then you’ll have to work out the matter together. Even if your child stays with you most of the time, joint legal custody means you and your ex have equal decision-making power.

How to resolve disagreements

It is possible that your court order may have laid out stipulations for what will happen if you and your co-parent cannot agree on certain parenting decisions. For instance, it may require you and your co-parent to resolve the dispute through arbitration.

It’s also possible – though less likely – that your court order may have assigned certain types of decision-making power to one parent over the other. This could give sole power to one parent on healthcare decisions.

If your court order does not give clear authority to one parent over the other in vaccination decisions, then you and your co-parent will want to communicate with each other and try to come to an agreement. If this is not possible to do on your own, then a judge or third-party arbitrator could intervene to help resolve the issue for you. In such cases, it’s worth reaching out to an experienced family law attorney to understand your best options.

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