So far, the COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children under the age of 16. However, Pfizer has recently requested the Food & Drug Administration’s clearance for a COVID-19 vaccine in kids ages 12 to 15. Once the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for younger children, many divorced parents are likely to disagree on vaccination for their kids.
What happens when co-parents disagree on COVID-19 vaccination? Can a parent vaccinate a child against the coronavirus disease without the other parent’s consent?
There is no “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Whether or not you can vaccinate your child against COVID-19 – or any other virus – without your former spouse’s consent depends on your custody rights.
If you and your ex-spouse disagree on vaccinating your children, speak with a Copperas Cove custody lawyer to discuss your options.
Custody Rights and COVID-19 Vaccination in Texas
Whether or not you have a right to make decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccination for your children depends on your custody rights, which are also known as “conservatorship” rights in Texas.
Texas Family Code recognizes three types of conservatorships:
Joint Managing Conservator
Sole Managing Conservator
Most parents are named joint managing conservators upon a divorce. Being a joint managing conservator means that you and your former spouse must share decision-making about most issues, including healthcare and vaccination.
When issuing child custody orders, Texas courts consider the best interests of children. A general presumption is that it is in a child’s best interests to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, which is why courts favor joint managing conservatorship.
However, when one parent is named the sole managing conservator, they have the exclusive right to make most major decisions about the child, including medical and vaccination decisions. When one parent becomes the sole managing conservator, the other parent is usually named a possessory conservator.
To sum up, here’s what happens if you and your spouse disagree on COVID-19 vaccination for your children:
If you are the sole managing conservator, you have the final say to decide whether or not your children will be vaccinated against COVID-19; or
If you and your ex-spouse are joint managing conservators, you will have to work together to come to an agreement.
What if We Are Joint Managing Conservators Who Disagree on COVID-19 Vaccination?
If you and your former spouse were named joint managing conservators and you cannot reach an agreement regarding COVID-19 vaccination for your kids, it is advisable to contact a skilled attorney to help you resolve your dispute amicably.
When one parent wants their child to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and the other opposes vaccination, it is important to speak with an attorney to review your custody order.
Some orders give one parent final decision-making authority over medical decisions for the children. Others, meanwhile, require the parents to rely on the pediatrician’s opinion when they cannot agree on vaccination or other medical decisions.
If neither parent has the final decision-making authority and your custody order does not offer other options to resolve your dispute, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options.
Some states allow children to decide whether or not they want to be vaccinated, but Texas is not one of those states. In Texas, minors cannot decide to get vaccinated in the absence of consent from their parents.
How Can Parents Resolve a Disagreement Regarding COVID-19 Vaccination?
Whenever divorced parents cannot agree on custody issues, including COVID-19 vaccination, they may try to resolve their disagreements through mediation.
In mediation, both parties work with a neutral, third-party mediator to come to a mutually beneficial agreement. The mediator does not have the authority to make decisions for the parties involved. Instead, the mediator’s job is to facilitate communication between the parties to help them reach an agreement.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on vaccination through mediation, you may need to go to court to allow the judge to decide for you. However, before taking your case to court, it is vital to consult with an experienced custody lawyer to determine if there are other ways to reach an agreement.
Things to Consider in a COVID-19 Vaccination Dispute
If you decide to take your COVID-19 vaccination dispute to court, you need to consider a few things before presenting your arguments in front of the judge:
Evidence for or against COVID-19 vaccination. When your case goes to trial, you will have to convince the judge to side with you. This can be done by presenting substantial evidence for or against vaccination. You need to collect sufficient evidence supporting your arguments regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. In most cases, it means having expert testimony from your child’s pediatrician.
Parental involvement. When hearing both parents’ arguments, the judge may consider which parent has been more involved with the child’s medical care. For example, if the mother, who wants her child to get vaccinated against COVID-19, has been more involved in the child’s healthcare, the court is more likely to side with the mother.
Religious beliefs. If one parent does not want their child to be vaccinated against COVID-19 due to religious beliefs, the court may side with that parent. However, a parent cannot use religion as an excuse to oppose vaccination in the absence of actual religious beliefs. For example, if a parent who has never been religious starts saying that they do not want their child to be vaccinated due to “religious reasons,” the judge is unlikely to side with that parent.
The judge will consider a variety of factors when making a decision for or against the COVID-19 vaccination. It is also important to remember that any custody-related decisions are made based on the child’s best interests.
Consult with a Copperas Cove Custody Lawyer Today
As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more available every day, disputes regarding COVID-19 vaccination for children have become more common. If you and the child’s other parent cannot agree on vaccination, speak with our attorneys at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard. Schedule a free consultation with our Copperas Cove custody lawyer to discuss your particular case today. Call 254-501-4040.