As families nationwide get ready for the school year to resume, it’s a new experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many things like school schedules and learning methods will change, yet some other things will remain the same. For most school systems, that includes students’ health assessments and up-to-date vaccination records. While vaccinating children may be a non-issue for some families, for others it may be a decision that doesn’t come easy. This is even more difficult in shared parenting situations when co-parents have different perspectives, opinions, and concerns.
Before we talk about co-parenting considerations when deciding whether to vaccinate your children, let’s take a look at the laws in North Carolina.
Vaccination Laws and Exemptions
In compliance with North Carolina law (General Statute 130A-152-157), parents and/or guardians must present certification of the required immunizations at the age required by law on or before the first day a student enters school. Click here to learn more about K-12 public school requirements in North Carolina.
Many families choose to skip vaccinating their children for various reasons. However, in North Carolina the law only allows for medical and religious exemptions from required immunizations. Any medical exemption (G.S.130A-156.) must be in writing from a physician and must state the basis for the exemption. For a religious exemption (G.S.130A-157.), the parent requesting the exemption must write a statement of their religious objection to immunization. This statement would then be provided to schools, child care programs, camps, etc. in place of an immunization record.
In addition to the required vaccinations, there are also several other recommended vaccinations. Many who oppose vaccines say they do not believe the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks of vaccines. However, in North Carolina, there is no exemption for personal beliefs when it comes to required vaccinations to enter the public school system.
Co-parenting with Different Opinions
As with any topic, vaccinations can become an issue when co-parents don’t agree or have differing views. As a mother and co-parent of five children, under two separate shared parenting agreements, ROAD to RESOLUTION principal attorney Robin Perrigo-Mermans knows that disagreements on any topic are part of the parenting process. When coming to an agreement on whether or not to vaccinate, Robin recommends that families talk about their options with a family medicine professional or their child’s pediatrician. The medical expert will be able to share information about family history and potential concerns or risks. In addition, they have access to the most updated and relevant research about vaccines and their impact. This will allow the co-parents involved to make an informed and educated decision.
In the world of COVID-19, there is additional buzz about a vaccine to prevent the disease. As you and your family are already discussing vaccines for the school year, this could also be an opportunity to have a conversation about vaccine trials happening now for the Coronavirus. If a vaccine is developed and health professionals say it is effective, co-parents should decide if they will vaccinate their children. Discussing this possibly with a trusted medical professional is also beneficial for families who may not be as informed on the complexity of vaccines and disease control and prevention. Once a decision is agreed upon, it should be properly documented so co-parents can refer back to the vaccine agreement if necessary.
In the event that the parenting partners are still at odds and can’t come to a decision, they may need to bring in a third-party mediator or attorney to help reach to a resolution. Through a mediation technique, parents will be guided through the conversation from a neutral perspective that focuses on the needs of their children. At ROAD to RESOLUTION – Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Family Law, we can help through mediation and collaboration. That’s just one of the many reasons why we encourage parenting partners to keep up with their shared parenting agreements and consider their personal differences when drafting the legal details. It can also get tricky when there are more opinions involved in addition to the co-parents. In the event that a family has a child approaching the age of 18 who has their own preference on vaccinations, there are even more legal considerations. For these types of situations, families may need to get a legal professional involved to assist in the decision-making process.
We’re Here to Help
If you have any legal questions about how your shared parenting or custody agreement pertains to vaccinations, please give us a call at (980) 260-1600. Our Charlotte-based team is here to help you and your family.
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Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.