Divorced Parents & COVID-19 Vaccinations – Who Gets to Choose?

The COVID-19/coronavirus vaccine is here and already available to many people in the US. As the vaccination continues to roll out, it will become more widely available – including to children. If you and your ex-spouse share a child, you may not see eye-to-eye on your child getting the COVID-19 vaccine. If the dispute is serious, it may eventually end up before a judge.

About the COVID-19 Vaccination and Children

As of February 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been tested on children under 16. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently approved for people 16 and older, while the Moderna vaccine is authorized for adults 18 and older. When a COVID-19 vaccination does roll out for children, many parents are already discussing whether or not theirs will be in line to receive the vaccine.

Lawyers around the US have already handled disputes regarding the vaccination of children. If you are currently dealing with this type of dispute with your ex-spouse, a family law attorney in San Diego can help you understand and protect your rights as a parent.

If One Parent Is Pro-Vaccination & One Parent Is Anti-Vaccination – How Are Disputes Resolved?

If you and your ex-spouse share child custody after divorce, your type of custody agreement can make a difference in which parent gets the final say about the COVID-19 vaccination. In California, there are two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the right to have a child in one’s physical care, while legal custody is the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child, such as health care and education choices.

It is legal custody that can determine whether or not a parent has the authority to vaccinate a child if one parent is pro-vaccination and the other is anti-vaccination. This type of dispute could be resolved based on who has legal custody. If both parents share legal custody, however, the matter may need to go to mediation or possibly go all the way to court.

  • Sole legal custody. A parent with sole legal custody will have the final say in whether or not a child receives the COVID-19 vaccine, even if the other parent does not agree.
  • Joint legal custody. If both parents share the legal right to decide on the COVID-19 vaccination, they will need to discuss the issue and come to an agreement.
  • If the parents cannot agree, mediation is an option for families. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution where an unbiased, neutral third party helps to work out a dispute without involving a judge.
  • Court trial. If mediation fails, the matter could be resolved by a judge in San Diego. If the case goes to court, the judge’s personal perspective on what is in the best interest of the child will make the final decision.

In making this decision, a judge in California will look at key factors such as the child’s health and vulnerability to COVID-19, whether the child’s school requires the COVID vaccine, and whether there is a religious or medical reason for one parent to be opposed to the vaccine.

Can the Child Decide If They Want the Vaccine?

It is possible for a child to decide whether he or she wants the COVID-19 vaccine in some circumstances. This could be the case if your child is older, such as a teenager, and a doctor considers him or her competent to make the decision. Even if the child is under the age of 18, a judge may consider him or her a mature minor who can make his or her own medical decisions. If your child can decide, his or her wishes may potentially decide the outcome.

When to Contact an Attorney

If you and your former spouse do not agree on your child getting the COVID vaccine, contact an attorney for assistance resolving your dispute. The best thing for your family may be to work out the matter before the vaccination rolls out and school districts make them a requirement. Working out your dispute beforehand can prevent your child from missing any school.