Custody & COVID: Resolving Vaccine Disputes Between Co-Parents

Are COVID Vaccines Mandatory for Children to Attend School in Orange County?

As COVID vaccines become available to children, many parents have been concerned about whether school districts will require all children receive and show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend. There has also been concern regarding schools administering COVID vaccines to children without their parents’ consent. According to the Orange County Board of Education, COVID-19 vaccines will not be required for attendance, nor will they be given to children without their parents’ consent.

The Board’s statement does not come as a surprise, given that children cannot currently receive vaccines in general without their parent’s consent. However, this issue has caused many families to evaluate their position on whether they want their children vaccinated, leading to disputes between co-parents.

If you and your child’s other parent are separated or divorced and are struggling to agree on whether you want your children to receive the COVID vaccine, you are not alone. Below we review the current CDC recommendations, as well as what you can do to resolve your co-parenting dispute.

Current Age Groups Eligible for the COVID Vaccine

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available to children 12 years of age and older. Because children can contract and spread COVID-19, the CDC recommends that all children 12 and older receive the vaccine if they are able. The CDC also notes that children can receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the same visit that they receive other vaccines. Therefore, obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine will not disrupt their normal childhood vaccine schedule.

To learn more about current guidelines for administering COVID-19 vaccines to children and teens, you can review the CDC website here.

Vaccinations & Legal Custody

Whether to vaccinate your shared children is a custody issue. Typically, when parents have joint custody, they share legal custody of their children. Legal custody refers to the important decision-making responsibilities between parents, including educational decisions, religious upbringing, and important medical and health care decisions. Parents can share legal custody even if one parent is awarded sole physical custody.

What To Do If Your Co-Parent Disagrees with You?

If your co-parent disagrees with you on whether to have your minor child vaccinated for COVID-19, you may feel at a loss of what to do. The health and well-being of your child is your top priority, and it can be very difficult when your co-parent disagrees with you on such an important topic as vaccinations. When dealing with vaccine disputes, try your best to remain calm and remember that you have options.

Potential methods and solutions for resolving a vaccine dispute with your co-parent can include:

  • Schedule dedicated time to discuss the issue together and allow each other to voice your concerns and questions
  • Together with your co-parent, consult with your child’s pediatrician for guidance
  • Review your parenting plan to determine if either parent has ultimate decision-making power over medical decisions
  • Work with your lawyer to negotiate the issue with your child’s other parent
  • Attend a mediation session to facilitate a resolution work through the issue together
  • Seek resolution through the courts

Should You Involve Your Children in the Decision?

Depending on the age and maturity of your child, you and your co-parent may wish to involve them in the decision-making process. Sometimes, hearing your child’s perspective on the issue (when appropriate) can help parents reach a resolution. Spend some time learning about the vaccine with your child and allow them to ask questions and voice their opinion on the matter.

Get Help from an Experienced Attorney

If you and your co-parent are still unable to resolve your dispute, it may be time to reach out to a lawyer for help. Though we often see the ideal co-parenting relationship in the media, where both parents always agree and get along, this is rarely how co-parenting relationships work in real life, even in amicable situations. Getting help from an outside source, such as your lawyers, a mediator, or the courts, is not a failure. Often it is the best, most effective way to resolve the issue and can even help you avoid conflict.

At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, we have helped many co-parents deal with complicated custody issues, including vaccine disputes and other healthcare-related parenting issues. Reach out to our law firm today to discuss your case. We are standing by to help.