Most people with co-parenting plans have proactively planned out every plausible scenario associated with their child’s wellbeing, but the global pandemic has created unforeseen situations. Early-on in the pandemic, parents with joint custody had to maneuver through fears of exposure to the virus because of shared households, decide if school attendance would be virtual or in-person and determine if participation in youth sports was worth a risk of exposure.

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Kaine R. Fisher is senior partner and director of family law at Rose Law Group.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine has been made available to kids 16 and older as well as the launch of clinical trials of the vaccine in younger children, parents with shared-custody are finding themselves having to make high-stakes decisions again. This time, about the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and their children.

While the news headlines paint a picture of the majority of people flocking to mass vaccine events,  hesitancy for the vaccine is also very real. When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, it is possible that divorced couples sharing parenting responsibilities could be on either extreme of the spectrum. Some may be highly enthusiastic at the prospect of the vaccine and others may be vaccine hesitant. Timing could also be a point of contention, with one parent preferring to wait for more data about the impact of the vaccine on children, for example. And with three different types of vaccine approved for emergency use by the FDA in the U.S., debate about which one to get for a child is also certain.

In addition, medical professionals may find themselves in the middle of the debate. For example, a child’s pediatrician could be thrust into the legal decision-making process by a parent, leaning on them to provide guidance in support of their personal position on the administration of the vaccine.

To be sure, parents that have joint legal decision-making authority will have to agree upon a decision, mediate it, or let the Court decide. Before arriving at a path, below are a few steps to take before broaching the topic with a former spouse or co-parent:

• Consult your parenting plan. Some plans may require decisions be mediated unless an emergency action is needed.

• Consult your pediatrician or family physician for facts to help craft your argument.

• Contact your co-parent via email, outline your reasoning for or against vaccination.

• Should an agreement not be possible, consult a lawyer to understand your rights and to determine a path for moving forward.

With so much information about the pros and cons of the COVID-19 vaccines, disagreements about what to do are inevitable and all the more intensified when it comes to children. Whatever the position of either parent on the vaccine, taking the time to evaluate the potential scenarios earlier than later will result in a better outcome all around.


Kaine R. Fisher is Senior Partner/Director of Family Law at Rose Law Group, where he leads a team that has litigated hundreds of some of the most complex divorce, child support, legal decision-making and other family law related cases.)