It has become a point of contention among many coparents who share parental decision-making authority. Should we vaccinate our child?
As you may know, the CDC has approved the Pfizer vaccine regimen for kids as young as 5. Approvals for older kids came earlier this year.
Some parents are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine themselves and may be even more reluctant to get one for their children. However, not getting the vaccine may mean that your kids can’t attend in-person school or certain school activities. It could affect the social events your child is allowed to attend. It could have consequences for their ability to travel, and it could have intra-family consequences.
If your ex wants to vaccinate your kids and you don’t (or vice versa), what should you do?
If you share legal decision-making authority, you are expected to come to a mutual decision over what to do. You should not simply override your children’s other parent and get the vaccine without their permission.
If you are in disagreement, the first thing to do is try to persuade your ex to go along with your point of view. This takes three basic steps:
Gather information: Find out whether your kids’ school, sports team or other organization will be requiring vaccinations. It’s important to know what the consequences will be if your child does not get the vaccine. Consider whether your parenting plan has a dispute resolution mechanism and try that if it does.
Also, consider talking to your family law attorney, who has probably been fielding calls about the issue and may have some insight to offer.
Understand your ex’s position: You won’t persuade anyone with contempt for their point of view, so you will need to understand why they are promoting vaccination or proposing to go without. Co-parenting requires you to work together to understand the real pros and cons and weigh your options rationally.
Build your case: Talk to your pediatrician. Talk to your general practitioner or specialty doctor. Try to get opinions from real experts, especially those your ex will respect.
Can we get the family court to decide?
If you and your children’s other parent cannot come to an agreement about whether to get a vaccination, you may be tempted to bring the issue to the family court. Assuming it has been a year since your parenting order was issued or there are emergency circumstances, you can petition the court for a modification of your legal decision-making authority.
It might not go as you expect, however. If the court does agree to take up your petition for a modification, it is unlikely to simply order vaccination or forbid it. Instead, the family court will probably consider which parent is better equipped to handle the decision and give that parent the authority to act in the children’s best interest. The modification to your respective legal decision-making authority could be permanent.