On October 29, 2021, the FDA authorized the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and up. In many families, intact or not, the decision of whether to vaccinate their child is an important topic of discussion. In some families, the parents had different views on vaccines for many years, and in other families, the parents had similar views on vaccines but felt differently about the COVID-19 vaccine. Irrespective of your family situation, below are some tips for dealing with differences of opinion relative to your child and the COVID-19 vaccine from a seasoned Connecticut divorce lawyer.
How to Agree on the COVID-19 Vaccine for Your Child
If the parents disagree, they should confer with the child’s pediatrician. The treating pediatrician can explain the pros and cons of a particular vaccine. The pediatrician can also provide information about the vaccine and give recommendations. Perhaps one parent does not have enough information to make an informed decision.
If the parents are already divorced, they should consult their local divorce attorney, as their Separation Agreement or Court Order should address the issue related to medical decisions. For example, if one parent has sole legal custody, that parent can unilaterally decide whether their child should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, if the parents share joint legal custody, the parents must generally confer and consult to reach an agreement on the issue. If the parents cannot agree, the Separation Agreement or Court Order may define a dispute resolution mechanism such as conferring with a parenting coordinator, family services, guardian ad litem, or mediator. If the parents still cannot agree after participating in a dispute resolution mechanism, either parent can file a Motion with the Court. However, you should strongly consider whether you want a stranger in a black robe (i.e., a Judge) to make major medical decisions for your child.
Another factor to consider may be a vaccine mandate by schools, clubs, sports, or other extracurricular activities. If a mandate exists, you must obey those requirements or have your child not participate.
Also, although you should not insert your child into a dispute if you and the other parent disagree, the “informed preference of the child” is one of the statutory criteria for a Court to consider when issuing a custody-related Order.
What If We Still Disagree?
While parents may consider taking their disagreement to Court, you may want to consider other options first. The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed cases, and the Court is overloaded. Additionally, the time and money spent arguing this issue should be considered. Further, while you might believe you have a strong case and still want to present it to the Court, Connecticut has no reported custody cases to review related to the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, there is minimal legal precedent to follow. As such, heeding the advice of a qualified doctor or pediatrician is often the best approach.
As experienced Connecticut divorce lawyers, the lawyers at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC have represented both mothers and fathers at trial in complex contested custody matters. As a result, we are adept at advising our clients on the strategies involved in custody disputes and understand the multitude of factors a Court considers. In addition, we recognize the emotional stresses and challenges that contested custody matters can impose on parents and their children, and we are empathetic to our clients’ needs.