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

Written on July 01, 2021

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. 

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