Disagreeing on COVID-19 Vaccine

Divorced parents may disagree on many topics, but when it comes to the health of their children, it’s critical to be on the same page. However, the COVID – 19 vaccine and whether or not your child should receive it, has become a point of contention, even between parents who are generally on the same page regarding medical decisions.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for everyone 12 years of age and older, the discussion about whether or not to vaccinate your child is now front and center. What are divorced parents do when they have opposing opinions?

Open the Dialogue with Your Child’s Co-parent

Peaceful and purposeful communication with your co-parent is crucial. A good place to start is to listen and really understand what your co-parent’s opinion is based upon. This affords each parent the opportunity to understand why their co-parent may or may not want their child to receive the vaccine. You don’t have to agree with your co-parent’s opinion, but you do have to respect their right to have that opinion.  If you cannot agree here are some questions you may want to ask that will prompt a thoughtful conversation with the goal of reaching a joint decision:

  • How much information do you have about the vaccine and what are your sources?
  • Can you agree upon which sources are reliable?
  • Does your child, co-parent or extended family have pre-existing conditions that put everyone at a higher risk if they contract COVID-19?
  • Will being vaccinated affect a child’s ability to return to in-person school or extracurricular activities?

Sharing factual information, reviewing pros and cons, and even speaking with your pediatrician will be helpful for both parents to come to a decision.

Review custody agreement

Custody agreements specify the legal custody of a child – sole or joint. It should also indicate a plan for making medical decisions. If a parent has sole legal custody, the choice would be up to that parent, but if there is joint legal custody, both parents need to agree that a child can be vaccinated and neither parent has the authority to act alone — both parents are expected to reach an agreement that’s in the best interest of the child. Some states will allow parents to request a modification of the parental responsibility if circumstances change and if the change is in the best interest of the child.

Post-Divorce Mediation

Vaccinations are life-impacting and require everyone to consider what is truly in a child’s best interest. If discussions about vaccinating your child haven’t proved to be successful, post-divorce mediation is a positive way to avoid legal action. A professional mediator will help facilitate communication and provide a calm, open forum for making a decision or compromise about vaccinating your child against COVID-19.


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