My Ex-Spouse and I Disagree on Vaccinating Our Child. What Now?

If you and the other parent do not agree on a big decision that can impact your child, it can lead to serious issues. Whether you are divorced or not, making decisions regarding your child is generally a joint process. Most of these decisions are small, like going to the dentist; but, some decisions can have major consequences. An example of this type of decision is vaccinations—many parents have very strong opinions regarding vaccinations and whether or not their child should get certain vaccinations, and when they should get the vaccination. What we are seeing now are questions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccination. 

There are many different reasons that a parent may opt for their children not to be vaccinated whether for safety, religion, or other reasons. As of now, the COVID-19 vaccine has been conditionally approved for children 12 and older. While some parents have anxiously awaited the chance to get their children vaccinated, others are completely against it. There are some situations where parents may agree not to vaccinate their children but schools require vaccinations in order to attend. These decisions are difficult for any family but can be especially challenging for parents who refuse to cooperate. 

How to (Calmly) Have a Discussion

When you can’t agree, what’s a devoted but determined parenting team to do? The best thing to do is take a step back and calm yourself down. Tensions may be running high as both parties are probably staunchly arguing what they believe is the right side. Try to find some common ground by reminding yourself that you are working together for your child’s best interests. Here are some other steps that you may find helpful throughout these discussions:

Look Back on the Past

While you likely have never been through a pandemic in your lifetime, you have probably had difficult decisions regarding your children that you’ve made together. Draw on that experience and see what worked in that situation. 

Seek Help

Call in family and friends you trust, a therapist, the child’s pediatrician, clergymen, or anyone else whose opinion you trust. Don’t see it as someone wins and someone loses but instead that coming to a resolution means you are doing the best for your child. 

Let the Child Share Their Opinion

Depending on the age of your child, you should ask their feelings about the vaccine. Their opinion should matter so this will give you the chance to hear them out.

When We Can’t Agree, Who Will Decide?

When divorced or unmarried parents are unable to agree on how to proceed in these cases, the decision falls on the court. They will use best interest factors to determine whether or not the child will be vaccinated. The court will consider each parent’s reasons for being for or against vaccination, school or extracurricular requirements, health risks in the family, family medical history, and, of course, a medical expert’s opinion. This generally does not equate to the general medical information online about vaccinations but rather seeking the medical opinion of the child’s pediatrician. 

If the parents speak with the child’s pediatrician and these discussions do not lead to a consensus, then a judge will be forced to make the decision—and that decision will be based upon the beliefs of the judge. If you have reached this point, you should contact one of our family law attorneys so that we can best walk you through this process and reach the result that is in the best interest of your child. 

COVID-19 and Your Estate Plan

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, more Americans are facing new realities. Dealing with school closures, quarantines, and stay-at-home orders has impacted businesses and families in new ways. During times like this, more families are getting to their “to-do” lists that may have been lingering on their minds for some time. These times of uncertainty have also reminded many families of the importance of estate and financial planning.[/caption]

As the rate of infections increases, the chance of illness touching your family becomes a real possibility. Making sure everyone in your family is protected properly before anything happens is essential. This is the time to be sure your estate and financial plan are up to date and in line with your wishes, especially if you or anyone in your family is considered at “high-risk” for infection.

Essential Documents

At a minimum, everyone should have in place a basic will, advance directive, and durable power of attorney. In addition to your essential documents, you should make sure all insurance policies and other beneficiary designations are up to date. On any account where you can name a “pay-on-death” or “transfer-on-death” beneficiary, you should make sure those designations are in place and up to date. Those designations will pass automatically upon your death, outside of your will and outside of probate. This type of transfer is ideal as it avoids any potential claims from creditors against the estate and creates a smooth transfer for your loved ones.

Will

Your will can include specific gifts of personal property or other financial gifts, your funeral and burial wishes, and any guardianship preferences for minor children. The objective of any estate plan is to maximize the financial benefit for your beneficiaries while keeping the transition smooth and clear to all those involved. If your funeral and burial wishes are clear, there will be no question between your family and loved ones as to what you would have wanted.

Advance Medical Directive

Your advance medical directive allows you to choose an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated. In Virginia, your advance medical directive also includes your living will, which allows you to make decisions about life-sustaining treatments if you are ever in a terminal, unresponsive, condition. Although the decisions can be difficult to make now, it’s much easier on your family and loved ones if your wishes are clear and enforceable should the unthinkable ever happen.

Durable Power of Attorney

Your durable power of attorney allows you to choose an agent to make financial decisions and engage in financial transactions on your behalf if you are unable to manage your own affairs. You can choose to have this authority only go into effect if you are incapacitated, which is referred to as a “springing” power of attorney. Otherwise, your power of attorney gives authority to act immediately as well as during incapacity.

Creative Planning

In addition to the above documents, there are other ways to control distributions to your beneficiaries in a way that will maximize the financial benefits of your estate. For many families, one of their largest assets is their real estate, which ordinarily has to pass through probate after the owner’s death. Another option available in Virginia is the Transfer on Death Deed. This type of transfer does not create any interest in the property for the beneficiary during the owner’s life and may be revoked at any time. It allows the real estate to pass outside of the will and outside of probate to the chosen beneficiary, just like a life insurance policy or other financial account with a pay-on-death designation.

Another option for families with young children, or irresponsible adult children, is the revocable family trust. This option allows families to put assets into a vehicle, known as a trust, and control how distributions are made after their death. Beneficiaries may have certain expenses paid on their behalf and may receive distributions at certain ages or other intervals.

About Melone Hatley

Melone Hatley is a family and estate firm serving Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia. Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.

We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about estate planning, contact our Reston office today at 703.995.9900 or Virginia Beach at 757.296.0580 or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.

 

Advance Medical Directives… Don’t Leave End of Life Care to Chance

An advance medical directive, also sometimes called an advance health care directive, or living will is a legal document that gives you control over who makes medical decisions during times when you cannot make them for yourself because of incapacity, serious illness, or an accident.  These directives allow an individual, known legally as the declarant, to specify what his or her health care wishes are, how they should be carried out, and who can make decisions on their behalf.  This relieves a great deal of stress both from family members and physicians as the medical decisions can be made in advance by the patient themselves.  If you don’t have an advance medical directive and name someone you trust to oversee your care, important health care decisions may be placed in the hands of family members, doctors, or even possibly judges, who may know very little about you, your wishes, and what type of care you would want.

In Virginia, advance medical directives are authorized under the Virginia Health Care Decisions Act.  To be legally binding, an advance medical direct must be in writing and signed by the declarant in the presence of two witnesses who also sign the directive.

An advance medical directive should include the following three sections:

  • End of life care instructions: what treatments the declarant does or does not authorize with regard to his or her health care
  • Appointment of a healthcare agent or third party to enforce the directive and make healthcare decisions for the declarant when he or she can no longer make them.
  • Decisions as to anatomical gifts for organ and tissue donation.

What are the benefits of advance medical directives?

There are several benefits to creating an advance medical directive.

  • You can make your own health care decisions about your eventual care in advance.
  • Your directive and agent will speak for you and be your voice once you no longer can speak for yourself.
  • You can update, edit, or change your directive at any time.

Making decisions about life-prolonging medical treatments, such as hydration, feeding tubes, CPR, ventilator or respirator assistance, dialysis, and even antibiotics, when you are well and have time to think and consider what type and how much care you would want if incapacitated, in a coma, or terminally ill will give you peace of mind.  You may choose some, all, or no life prolonging treatments or extraordinary measures, or opt to receive pain medication and only palliative care.  And, you can specify certain treatments for a finite period of time, after which, if your condition does not improve, treatment should be stopped.

Your advance medical directive only takes effect when you cannot speak for yourself, so again, you must plan carefully about what you want your directive to say when it takes the place as your spokesperson. As long as you are competent, regardless of your condition, you will make your own decisions. When you are not, your advance medical directive and agent will guide the decisions used in your treatment.

Your directive can be changed at any time. If your health situation or personal beliefs change, you can edit, update or amend the details of your advance medical directive.  Be aware that this is a legally binding document and must be updated by legal means if you change your mind about all or part of your future medical treatment.

Who should I appoint as my agent?

An advance medical directive is also used to appoint an agent to carry out the declarant’s wishes, or otherwise to make decisions as to the declarant’s medical care.  Most people name a spouse, partner, close relative, or even a friend as their agent.  Under Virginia law, your agent must be at least 18 years old.  Your agent should, regardless of their own personal beliefs, be your advocate and be willing to enforce your advance medical directive and health care wishes.  Though your agent does not need to be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia, they must be able and willing to travel to Virginia if necessary.  Your agent will begin enforcing and making health decisions for you once you lack the capacity to do so for yourself, and must do so in person.

Who should have a copy of my advance medical directive?

Once you have created your advance medical directive, the declarant should inform his or her primary physician and a copy of the directive should be included in your medical records.  You should also make sure that copies are included in the files of specialists including cardiologists, oncologists, etc.  It is also a good idea to give a copy to your agent, so that it can be reviewed and discussed, if necessary.  You may want to share the details of your advance medical directive with your spouse, children, and other close relatives.  And as with all estate planning documents, your attorney should keep a copy in your legal file.

Get help from an estate planning attorney

An advance medical directive is not a one-size-fits-all document.  Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your final wishes as to medical care are carefully detailed so that they can be carried out as you planned.  In this way, you can make sure that your family members do not undergo the strain of trying to make key medical decisions on your behalf, during a stressful time.  In Virginia, Melone Hatley, P.C. is here to help. We offer a full range of estate planning services, including wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and advance health care directives, estate tax planning, guardianship and conservatorship, and contested estate matters.

About Melone Hatley

Melone Hatley is a general practice law firm based in Reston, and serves the Northern Virginia area.  Our practice areas include Family LawDivorce and Special Needs ChildrenTraffic Ticket DefenseDUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law.  Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.

We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about advance medical directives and other estate planning services, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 or visit our website: www.MeloneLawPC.com.

© 2021 Melone Hatley, P.C.