Who Decides Whether Your Child Will be Vaccinated Against Covid?

During the past several months, many people have had to make a personal decision about whether they will receive COVID vaccines. Although certain jobs may require vaccination, for the most part this is a personal decision. And indeed, a decision that many people feel strongly about, and which may impact their children.

Vaccines are now available for children over twelve and may soon be available for children aged five to twelve. If you are the parent of minor children, then you will need to determine whether your children will be vaccinated or not. Depending on your beliefs, this may be a simple or a difficult decision to make.

But what if you and your ex-spouse do not agree about vaccination?

What if Your Ex Does Not Agree About Covid Vaccinations for Your Children?

Perhaps you and your ex have argued about other vaccinations such as chicken pox or measles. But more likely than not, you probably did not have arguments about such vaccinations. Polio vaccines, for instance, have been around for a long while.

Covid-19, and the vaccines aimed at mitigating its risks are new and many people are confronting this issue for the first time. If you both agree to vaccinate, or to not vaccinate your child, then there shouldn’t be much of a legal issue to confront. But what if you and your ex can’t agree whether to vaccinate your children?

What does the law say about Covid-19 vaccines for children in such instances?

Covid-19 Vaccines for Minors and the Law

Vaccines of any kind are generally considered a medical decision. When it comes to medical decisions, courts consider the concept of “Legal Custodian.” In New Jersey divorces, the concept of legal custodians is simple: it is the parent or parents who will make important decisions pertaining to their minor child’s health, education, or religion.

Day-to-day decisions fall under the penumbra of physical custodian, but legal custodian addresses big-picture, and often large issues. For instance, what religion to raise a child, whether a child will attend private or public school, and whether a child should be vaccinated would all be decided by a child’s legal custodian(s).

Divorce or custody agreements generally address which parent or parents are the legal custodians of children. But it is most common in New Jersey for both parents to be considered legal custodians. When both joint custodians disagree, what then? Who is the tiebreaker?

Should I File a Motion to Compel or Stop a Covid-19 Vaccine?

If you’re reading this article, perhaps you or someone you know is at a stalemate on whether to vaccinate a minor child. If both parents share joint legal custody, and both disagree, then clearly something must be done to break the tie. Unless the child is a teenager, the court will probably not consider the child’s own views on vaccination.

Instead, the Court will operate under its common standard: “the best interests of the child.” In other words, if both parties cannot agree, the Court will look to whether vaccination is in a child’s best interests.

Courts and judges are loathe to make such determinations, which are very personal, but if forced to do so this “best interests of the child” standard is the framework they will utilize. As to the result if a Motion is filed on this type of action, it will come down to the specific facts of the case. For instance, there may be specific factors that would make a judge more or less likely to agree with each parent.

Some factors about whether to order vaccination or not may include:

  • How old is the child?
  • Are there religious reasons to not vaccinate?
  • Does the child have any specific medical issues for or against vaccinating? For instance, does the child have a compromised immune system?
  • If the child is a teenager, do they have an opinion on their Covid vaccination?
  • Was the child vaccinated for other diseases such as mumps, polio, and chickenpox?

If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement on the issue of Covid vaccination (whether with the assistance of attorneys or not), then you may need to file a Motion or perhaps even an emergent application with the court to address it.

When you file a Motion, your attorney will include the reasons for or against vaccination depending on your point of view. Remember, this will be a fact-sensitive matter, so be sure to discuss the specifics of your case with your lawyers so the proper arguments may be made.

If your divorce is not yet finalized, then you will need to address this issue as part of your divorce agreement. You may need to file a motion before the divorce is finalized to address this issue, as it is often time sensitive.

Taylor Divorce Law, LLC

With more than a decade of New Jersey Divorce and family law experience, attorney Carl Taylor stands ready to assist you with your divorce or post-judgment divorce issues.

If you’re ready to speak with Carl, call 856-600-4004 to schedule your initial conference. We look forward to hearing from you.

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