Nowadays, everybody is wondering when and where they can get the COVID-19 vaccine, and whether there will be enough for everyone who needs it. Some are holding out, for fear of safety or efficacy. What choice to make is up to you, but when it comes to your child, you may find yourself in a dispute over whether the child gets vaccinated or not.
Courts and Vaccination Disagreements
What happens when mom wants the child to get vaccinated and dad, for whatever reason, does not (or vice versa)? Obviously these are so new that there is no guiding case law on the COVID-19 vaccine, but there is some case law from parents who had disputes over other kinds of vaccines.
A recent New Jersey case involved kids who were taken out of the home because of abuse and placed in the foster care system. The Division of Child Protection wanted to give the kids standard vaccinations. The mother, who still had legal custody, objected to the kids getting the vaccination. The child’s doctor testified that the vaccines should be given.
The court noted that even though the kids had been placed in foster care, the mother was still the legal guardian, and had a right to make certain decisions about the children’s safety, health, and welfare. However, the court noted that they (and state agencies) could intervene and override the mom’s orders to protect the child’s safety.
Law Applies in Divorce and Custody Disputes
That case was a dispute between the state and a parent—not a dispute between two parents who have shared custody or decision-making rights for the child. However, the fact remains that there is legal precedent that courts will look first to the safety of the child over the objections of a parent,when parents disagree about vaccinations.
There is some authority that a parent can refuse medical treatment like vaccines when there is some religious basis. But just on secular grounds—like not believing the vaccine is helpful, or fearing that it may be dangerous somehow—will not suffice.
Prepare in Advance
Parents who argue over whether a child should get the COVID vaccine should be prepared for a court to favor the side that wants the child to get vaccinated, unless there is a religious or some other overriding reason to refuse to get the injection (for example, the child has some pre-existing medical condition that would make it dangerous to get the vaccination).
If you do have a valid religious or medical reason for refusing COVID vaccinations for your child, you may have to take court action to prevent it from happening if you anticipate that the other parent will not be on the same page. The time to do that is now, while most kids are still unvaccinated.
Divorce can be stressful. We can help. Contact our New Jersey Divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC to help you if you are having a dispute involving custody or visitation.