Parenting during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brought up so many issues for families to navigate. For months and months, parents have had to consider the safety of schooling options, how to handle their children’s social distancing from their friends, and the many related mental health challenges their families faced during these uncertain times.
For parents going through a divorce, the health and safety issues were complicated by issues of child custody and who has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the children. The latest iteration when it comes to COVID-19 concerns has to do with the decision whether to get the children vaccinated. For parents who have a custody agreement in place after a divorce, the document should make clear who has a say, but if the decision is supposed to be a shared one, parents who disagree about the vaccine can find themselves fighting it out in court.
How can a Custody Agreement Clarify Whether the Children Will be Vaccinated?
If one parent has sole custody of the children, that parent will be able to make all the decisions related to the children’s health. The sole custodial parent will retain the rights to make all medical, educational, and other life decisions on behalf of the children. This includes the right to get the children vaccinated or not, without being legally required to get permission or input from the children’s other parent.
If the custody agreement states that the parents share joint legal custody, they must come to an agreement.
What Happens if the Parents Cannot Agree about the Children Getting Vaccinated?
If one parent believes that their children should be vaccinated, while the other parent is against it, either parent can take the issue to family court. The parent can ask the court to hear the arguments supporting their reasoning and make a decision to allow them to claim the authority on the issue.
The court can allow one parent to make the call on the COVID vaccine, or any other issue it is asked to step in to settle.
To be clear, the court will not become the authority that decides on the vaccine dispute. Rather, the court will rule on which parent has made the better case for why they should be the authority to make the decision.
The judge will listen to arguments from each side about why each parent thinks the children should or should not get the shot, but the decision will be based on what is in the best interest of the children, not who makes a better case for being in charge.
Navigating a divorce is infinitely more complicated when children are involved. Custody issues and co-parenting can cause stressful complications to an already emotional process. The lawyers at Burnham Douglass can help you understand your rights as a parent and assist with legal advice about how to manage co-parenting issues with your former spouse. Contact us online or call us at 856-751-5505 for a free consultation. We are located in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout New Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, Salem County and Mercer County.