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Co-Parenting and Covid Vaccination for Children in Georgia

by Sharon Jackson  on November 12, 2021 under 

We hear it in the news daily: the discourse over whether to receive the Covid-19 vaccine or not. Choosing what is best for yourself is one thing, but what happens when parents are divorced and co-parenting and their child is eligible for Covid vaccination? Or if you and your ex-spouse disagree about whether your child should receive the Covid-19 vaccine? Which parent has the final say, and how do you decide if your medical beliefs are very different? This is a medical and emotional issue that many families in Georgia are now experiencing, and unfortunately, it is not going away anytime soon. 

As the availability of the Covid vaccine expands for children under the age of 12, divorced parents who once agreed on medical care for their children are now in legal battles because one parent approves of their child receiving the Covid-19 vaccine and the other does not. While married, only one parent needs to give consent (although we do not recommend one parent have their child vaccinated without the other parent’s approval). But when separated or divorced, the rules are very different.

How to Decide: Co-Parenting and Covid Vaccination for Your Your Child 

It’s not surprising that many people are confused and unsure about the safety and benefits of giving the Coovid vaccine to their children: 

  • Each state has its policies and requirements regarding Covid mandates
  • Some businesses require their employees to be vaccinated, while others do not mandate vaccines or masks
  • State governments do not always agree with the federal government regarding Covid-19 vaccines and mandates
  • Physicians disagree about the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine

Parents often agree about the healthcare of their children, but not always. Even parents who were on the same page regarding vaccines for other illnesses can be strongly divided on the Covid-19 vaccination issue. All 50 states and Washington, DC require some vaccines (such as whooping cough, chickenpox, and polio) for children to enter public school - although some states allow religious and medical exemptions. 

According to the Washington Post, attorneys have seen “a huge uptick in calls about the coronavirus vaccine.” So, what is the resolution for divorced parents who are co-parenting but cannot agree to vaccinate their child or not?

When Divorced Parents Disagree In Georgia About Vaccination

When divorced parents in Georgia disagree on whether their child should receive the Covid vaccination, it's important to look at the divorce decree. Parenting Plan and child custody orders. The Parenting Plan r will state which parent has legal custody and tie-breaking authority for medical conditions. The parent with this responsibility has the final say whether the child receives the vaccine or does not. 

In resolving custody cases, the court takes into account both physical custody and legal custody.

  • Physical custody refers to the amount of time the child actually spends with each parent.
  •  Legal custody relates to the rights given to the parent to participate in all important decisions concerned with raising the child, which include health care, residence, religion, education and extra curricular activities.

In many instances, while one parent maintains physical custody, the parents share legal custody and both parents have the right to make decisions about health care issues. If a parent has sole legal custody, they can make all the medical and health care decisions for their child - including deciding whether the child should get vaccinated.

Discuss With Your Child's Doctor
It is very difficult when married parents disagree about the Covid-19 vaccine for their child, but the courts may need to step in when non-married co-parents cannot agree on whether their child should receive the Covid vaccine. When neither party gives way to the other, many parents choose to contact their child’s physician to discuss their child's medical best interests and work through the argument. Having both parents speak with the doctor at the same time can answer questions and ease concerns.

While both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children should get a COVID-19 vaccination, parents and health care providers should consider the individual child’s welfare. 

  • If co-parents cannot reach a consensus and have spoken with the child’s physician, it is perhaps time to consult an experienced family law attorney to discuss the child’s best interest and how to proceed.
  • If you are not the custodial parent and do not have medical decision-making authority but strongly disagree with the custodial parent's decision about vaccination, you can consult a lawyer. One parent can ask the court to determine who has the final health care decision-making authority and what is in the best interest of the child regarding the vaccine. 

Contact Georgia Family Law Attorney Sharon Jackson Today

When Georgia parents share joint legal custody, major medical decisions require both parents to be included in the decision-making process. If one parent refuses to allow a minor child to be vaccinated, either the other parent must concede, the parents should try and negotiate their decision with a medical or legal advisor or the parents need to bring the argument to their lawyer and the courts.

An experienced family law attorney can help you understand your legal options and present your beliefs and concerns to the judge if you and your child's other parent disagree on vaccination. Attorney Sharon Jackson can help you prepare for your court date and prepare a strong argument to protect the best interest and well-being of your child. Contact Us online or call (678) 436-3636  to schedule a confidential consultation. 

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