Most people with co-parenting plans have proactively planned every plausible scenario related to their child’s wellbeing, but the global pandemic has created unforeseen situations. At the beginning of the pandemic, parents with joint custody had to maneuver through fears of exposure to the virus due to shared households, decide whether school attendance would be virtual or in person, and determine whether participating in youth sports was worth exposure to risk.
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After the COVID-19 vaccine was made available to children aged 16 and over and clinical trials of the vaccine began in younger children, parents with joint custody will again have to make important decisions. This time about the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and their children.
While the headlines paint a picture of the majority of people flocking to mass vaccination events, the hesitation for the vaccine is also very real. When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s possible divorced couples who share responsibility for parents are on both extremes of the spectrum. Some may be very excited about the prospect of the vaccine; others may be hesitant. Timing could also be a point of contention as, for example, a parent may prefer to wait for more data on the effects of the vaccine on children. And since the FDA has approved three different types of emergency vaccines in the US, the debate over which one is available for a child is safe too.
Additionally, medical professionals may be in the middle of the debate. For example, a child’s pediatrician could be involved in the legal decision-making process by a parent, relying on them to support their personal position on the administration of the vaccine.
To be sure, parents who have joint legal authority to decide must agree on a decision, mediate it or let the court decide. Before you get to any trail, here are a few steps you need to take before discussing the topic with a former spouse or co-parent:
• Consult your parenting plan. Some plans may require mediation of decisions unless an emergency response is required.
• Ask your pediatrician or family doctor for facts in order to formulate your reasoning.
• Contact your co-parent by email and explain your reasons for or against vaccination.
• If an agreement is not possible, consult a lawyer to understand your rights and to find a way forward for further development.
With so much information on the pros and cons of COVID-19 vaccines, disagreements are inevitable and all the more intense in children. Regardless of a parent’s position on the vaccine, early assessment of the potential scenarios will lead to an all-round better result.
Kaine R. Fisher is Senior Partner / Director of Family Law at Rose Law Group, where he leads a team that has negotiated hundreds of the most complex cases of divorce, child support, jurisprudence, and other family law cases.)