A new issue for divorced parents that came with the COVID-19 pandemic is how to deal with their disagreement about COVID vaccines. There are two major areas where this disagreement affects the relationship:
1. When Parents Disagree About COVID Vaccines for Themselves
When one parent refuses to get vaccinated, the other vaccinated parent will likely have concerns about the unvaccinated parent passing the virus to the children during visitation. In one recent case, a mother was vaccinated and had compromised people in her family.
The mother was concerned that the children’s unvaccinated father would pass the virus to them during visitation and the children would then pass it on to family members. They handled this disagreement by agreeing that:
- The father and the children would always wear masks during the visit.
- The visitation would take place primarily outside.
2. When Parents Disagree About COVID Vaccines for Their Children
When parents disagree about COVID vaccines for their children, the options are:
- The court order controls. Look to the court order which will generally give one parent the authority to make medical decisions for the children. If this is not spelled out, the parent who has sole legal custody is the one who can make the decision. If the parents have joint legal custody, they have a problem because that means they have equal deciding authority.
- Mediation may help. If the couple is at an impasse, they may agree to have the help of mediation. The mediator can help them move from panic mode, terrified that their child is going to be very sick, into listening to a professional who can facilitate the conversation and ultimate decision making.
- Petition court for assistance. If parents cannot agree, even with the help of mediation, they can seek court intervention. In most cases, the court will look to the recommendation of the children’s doctor and make an order consistent with that medical advice.
For assistance with coming to an agreement if you and your spouse are unable to agree on Covid vaccines for your children, contact us at Rosenthal & Markowitz, LLP.