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COVID-19 Vaccines and Children in Divorce

December 12, 2020

COVID-19 numbers are on the rise, and so is promising talk of an effective vaccine. If you’re a parent of a young child, you are concerned for the best interest of your child, and access to the vaccine is likely something that you are thinking about. If you are divorced or otherwise co-parenting, you are familiar with the potential challenge of making medical decisions together, and the issue of having a child vaccinated for COVID-19 in Colorado is one of those major medical decisions.

Our Fort Collins divorce and child custody attorneys have helped many co-parents navigate the COVID 19 pandemic while sharing custody.

In Colorado, children are required to be vaccinated to enroll in school. This requirement can be waived on the basis of medical, personal, or religious beliefs, and there are many vaccines, including that for the flu that are not required. If a COVID-19 vaccine is not required by the state, as is the case with the flu vaccine, a decision to have a child vaccinated for COVID-19 or not will lay solely with the parents. In cases where parents are divorced or otherwise co-parenting, the decision to have a child vaccinated for COVID-19 in Colorado could potentially get tricky.

For those co-parenting after a divorce or parental responsibilities agreement the issue of decision-making is at the heart of the question of having a child vaccinated for COVID-19 in Colorado. Those parents with sole decision-making responsibilities will have the sole right to make a decision about whether and when to vaccinate their child. Those parents with joint decision-making who may disagree on the issue of vaccination in general, may find themselves facing the prospect of disagreement on the COVID-19 vaccine.

While the percentage of those asserting the riskiness of vaccination are generally low, it is important to know the position of your co-parent and to face head-on any disagreement that might arise with respect to this issue. It is time to review your Parenting Plan to be clear on the position you may be in.

Sole Decision-Making

In cases where one parent has been granted sole decision-making, that parent will have full authority to make the final decision with regard to vaccination and the COVID-19 vaccine specifically. In such an instance, if you are the parent without decision-making authority there is little, legally, that can be done to intervene in any decision regarding a COVID-19 vaccine. Any court challenge would return to the issues that initially led to the assignment of sole-decision making. While not impossible, a positive outcome in such an action may be unlikely.

Joint Decision-Making

In cases where parents are granted joint decision-making there is likely a history of successful co-parenting around important medical decisions. Conferring with legal professionals and discussing personal values are important aspects of mutual decision-making in these circumstances. In the event that disagreement arises between the parents on the issue of having a child vaccinated for COVID-19, there are a number of options that may be available:

  • Mediation: Parents could enter into mediation to try to resolve their differences with respect to having a child vaccinated for COVID-19. While the issue of a COVID-19 vaccination may seem to be a binary one – either vaccinate or don’t – questions regarding which vaccine to receive, where it can be administered, the potential course of the vaccine, necessary boosters, and the like require consideration. As information becomes available regarding these issues, it may become clearer whether there is an avenue for mediating the issue.
  • Modification of Decision-Making: When parents with joint decision-making cannot agree on medical decisions there is always the option of seeking a modification to that decision-making. For a modification on the basis of concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccination the Court would rely heavily on evidence including medical publications and the testimony of medical providers. Underlying medical conditions may also be a factor to consider in weighing whether or not to seek a modification of decision-making. It may be possible that a judge would be willing to separate out the issue of COVID-19 vaccination from other medical decision-making. This is a possibility that should be discussed with your attorney.

With ongoing uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and a vaccine, one of the things that you can control is when and how you deal with this issue with respect to co-parenting and COVID-19. It is important to begin speaking with your co-parent now regarding your respective positions on having a child vaccinated for COVID-19 in Colorado so that you can be prepared to address this directly when it becomes available.

Our experienced family law attorneys can assist you in developing a plan for the eventuality that you encounter co-parenting challenges surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and your children.

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