To Vaccinate Or Not: After Divorce, Parents Disagree & Court Is Petitioned

A recent case was decided when the parents who were divorced could not agree on whether their 11 year old child should be vaccinated against Covid-19.  The parents had an existing agreement providing for joint legal custody and that if the parents did not agree on major decisions the mother would have final decision making authority subject to the Father's right to seek the intervention of the court.

The court explained that normally such a case would not be permitted as it would not properly be the basis for a modification of custody unless there were a significant and substantial change of circumstances.  The fact that Covid exists and that parents may have a different opinion on whether to vaccinate would not be sufficient for a court to get involved as a "change of circumstances".  However, in this case the parents had in their agreement the right to petition the court if either party wanted the court to review the other parent's decision making.  Therefore, the court found that the parties had specifically preserved the right for the court to review parenting decisions.

Although the court did not determine whether a vaccine is proper or should be given, the court did state that previously the father did not disagree nor had the mother made improper medical decisions regarding treatment of the child.  Therefore, in the absence of proof that the mother does not or cannot make appropriate decisions for the medical treatment of the child there was no reason to take the medical decision making away from the mother.  There was no proof by the father that the mother's decision to vaccinate was not in the "best interests" of the child.  The difference of opinion by the parents without proof of harm to the child would not be a basis for the court to substitute its judgment for the mother's decision.