With the CDC’s authorization of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, parents now face decisions of whether to get their children vaccinated. Although strongly recommended by healthcare professionals, receipt of this vaccine is not required as with others like those for polio or measles. 

The decision lies with the discretion of the parents or legal guardian. With vaccination discussions now at the forefront of co-parent decision-making, who decides when an agreement cannot be reached?

Consult your court documents.

While vaccinating one’s child ideally should be a joint decision, this may prove difficult for divorced or separated parties. Those at an impasse should first consult their court documents.

The terms of the final divorce decree and custodial documents will detail legal custody and the powers held by each party. 

  • Joint Legal Custody: Parents sharing joint legal custody must discuss the issue before making a decision. Review the documents for details regarding power over medical decisions if a decision cannot be reached. 
  • Sole Custody: Parents with sole custody have been entrusted with all final decision-making for the child. Parents with sole custody can make decisions without consent from their co-parent, but they should at least consult the other parent.

Enlist the help of mediation services.

Mediation is commonly sought by separated parties seeking assistance with difficult decision-making. Parties sharing joint legal custody who are unable to reach an agreement may turn to a mediator for assistance. 

In these cases, the mediator (typically, an agreed-upon attorney) will act as a neutral third party and assist co-parents, guiding them through the decision-making process and helping them to reach an amicable solution. 

Aside from custody-related matters, mediation can help settle a range of family law issues, including prenuptial matters, post-judgment modifications and more.

Seek assistance from the court.

If a decision cannot be reached in mediation, couples may take matters to family court. Though court involvement is never ideal, there are times it may prove necessary. Judges will hear from both parents, so preparation is key for conveying your case. 

Factors weighed in the final decision may include the following:

  • Evidence in support or opposition to the child’s vaccination.
  • Any religious beliefs that vaccination may go against.
  • History of parental involvement regarding the child’s prior medical decisions.

It is important to note that a court cannot issue an order requiring vaccination but can rule in favor of the parent whose actions they believe are in the child’s best interest.

Bleecker Family Law can help.

Our children are our future, and Bleecker Family Law is here to support them and their families in times of need. By offering mediation, representation and a knowledgeable team of skilled attorneys, we are here to help you successfully navigate South Carolina law.

Contact us today to speak with a member of our team with questions regarding family law mediation, child custody orders and other services.