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Who makes decision for child COVID-19 vaccination if parents divorced?

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 3:17 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2021 at 4:32 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With COVID-19 vaccines now available for 5 to 11-year-olds, one attorney urges families to have an open discussion about that decision, especially if they no longer live under the same roof.

Barnes & Diehl, P.C. has seen an increase in the number of cases tied to pandemic-related issues, including whether to get their child vaccinated. However, the firm’s chairman and CEO, Edward Barnes, reminds parents that the ultimate decision boils down to one thing.

“What’s in the child’s best interests,” he said. “If you cannot articulate that, you’re not going to win.”

Now with 5 to 11-year-olds able to get a vaccine, Barnes said it is important for divorced parents to have a conversation before the child rolls up their sleeve for a shot.

In most cases, it comes down to the agreement of those involved and the court order regarding custody.

“Let’s suppose the court order for custody is, the parents have joint legal custody, and one of them has physical, legal custody,” Barnes said. “Joint legal custody encompasses agreeing on decisions that are in the child’s best interest.”

If an agreement cannot be reached, then a court appearance may be necessary or some form of mediation.

However, the judge may not be able to decide, which is when one parent may move forward with making changes to the custody agreement.

“If the court changes joint legal custody to one of them, then that one can make the decision,” Barnes said. “The court may decide on doing that based on which of the parties is better able to look out for the best interests of the children.”

It is a complicated situation, especially given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on some families.

The firm has argued some cases where one parent wanted stricter visitation times due to the other parent not being vaccinated.

“It was a situation where a mom says, ‘I don’t want you to visit with the child because you’re living with someone who has dangerous habits regarding COVID; they party too much, spend too much time with large groups, they’re not vaccinated. I’m concerned with the exposure issue for my child,’” Barnes said.

However, it is important to know as many facts as possible before deciding for your children.

“Know the medical situation, know the recommendations of your doctor,” Barnes said.

However, Barnes said the best advice he can give is this, “Don’t let grudges interfere with decisions about your children.”

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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