Last year, I wrote an article about how Covid-19 impacted family law. Specifically, I addressed how it affected (and continues to affect) custody. It’s been almost two years since we first heard the word Covid-19, and it continues to impact every aspect of our lives including custody agreements between separated and/or divorced parents. Now that the Covid-19 vaccine is available to children five years and older, parents are faced with an important health decision for their children. Some separated parents may be on the same page about whether to have their children vaccinated. But what happens if you want your child to have the vaccine and your ex is opposed? The answer depends on whether the parties share legal custody.
What is legal custody?
Legal custody refers to the decision-making ability of parents on behalf of their children. If parties share legal custody then they share the right to make major decisions affecting the best interests of their children, including but not limited to medical, religious, and educational decisions. This means that the parties shall jointly make parenting decisions affecting the health, welfare, education and religion of the children, after discussion and consultation with the each other with the goal of obtaining a consensus based decision in the children’s best interest. This includes decisions regarding vaccinations including the Covid-19 vaccine. Thus, if parents share legal custody, they must be in agreement as to whether their children should get vaccinated.
What happens if parents cannot agree?
If parents cannot agree as whether their child or children should receive the Covid-19 vaccine and if one party feels strongly that their child should receive it, then they can petition the court. Depending on the factual circumstances of your case, you may want to file a Petition for Special Relief or a Petition to Modify Custody requesting sole legal custody. It is strongly recommended that you consult with a family law attorney about your options and to discuss an appropriate course of action. The family law attorneys at OWM Law are experienced in legal custody in the five-county area. If you have a question about legal custody and the Covid-19 vaccine, please contact Melissa Iacobucci, Esq. at 610-323-2800 or email the firm.