When the COVID-19 vaccines were released for adults in early 2021, it was a sigh of relief for my family. My husband and I have five children, four of whom are over the age of 18. We were so grateful to receive the vaccine; however, for our youngest, who is still in high school – we had to wait a little longer for his dose. A few months later, his age group was approved to get the shot and we became a fully-vaccinated family.
Getting our vaccines was an easy decision for my family. However, as a collaborative family law attorney with expertise in co-parenting and parenting agreements, I know that this is not the case for all families.
For many parents who share custody of their children, it’s another point of contention with their parenting partner. I also want to mention that differing opinions of the COVID-19 vaccine for children doesn’t just impact parents who are separated or divorced. This topic has created controversy and conflict between married couples too as they choose what is best for the health of their children. These types of discussions need to be handled delicately in order to preserve the relationship and uphold respect for the future.
Throughout my career, I’ve assisted families in creating, navigating, and managing co-parenting agreements that work for everyone involved. As part of that, I’ve helped families work through their differences when it comes to various topics concerning co-parenting, including vaccinations and health care decisions. Here are my top tips for dealing with a co-parent who doesn’t want your child under the age of 18 to get the COVID-19 vaccine:
Find Common Ground – Even If It’s Hard
The majority of disagreements between co-parents come when both parents believe they know what is the best choice for their child. As a mother and stepmother with two separate co-parenting agreements, I know all too well that this can be extremely frustrating. But, it’s important to remember that the disagreement is only happening because both you and your parenting partner truly want the best for your child in terms of safety, health, and happiness. Establishing that you recognize this and admire their love and concern for your child is a great way to ease into the conversation.
If you approach the discussion with respect and honesty, you might even be surprised with how the conversation goes. Of course, there’s still a chance that you’ll disagree, but it can help set the tone and create mutual understanding for the discussion.
Do Your Research and Share the Facts
When you bring this up to your co-parent, be ready to share the most recent data and facts surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccines. Look at data from local hospitals about the vaccination rate. Many hospitals are also releasing information about how many serious cases and deaths of the virus have been in unvaccinated people versus vaccinated people. You can also use research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is frequently updated online. The CDC has made an official recommendation that everyone, ages five and older, get a COVID-19 vaccine. As of December 2021, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for children ages 5-17. While the vaccine is in the works for children 4 years and under, there isn’t an option for that age group right now.
Get the Opinion of a Medical Professional
In addition to sharing recent health data and stats with your child’s other parent, I suggest that you get a direct opinion from your child’s healthcare provider or pediatrician. This is a good way to keep politics and personal beliefs out of the conversation. Your decision should be solely based on medical facts to protect the health and wellness of your child. If you’re equipped with a direct recommendation from a trusted medical professional, this could get the other parent on board if they weren’t completely sure before or if they were on the fence.
Your child’s medical team can likely provide fact-sheets or helpful information when dealing with another parent or parenting partner who is against the vaccine or isn’t sure about it.
Contact a Certified Mediator or Family Law Attorney
If you and your parenting partner still can’t come to an agreement, it’s time to turn to a family law professional. It’s also important to note that it can get even trickier when children also have their own opinions. 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.
Contacting a mediator or attorney can be a much-needed resource for a family that is divided. At ROAD to RESOLUTION, we can guide conversations using mediation and collaborative family law that will help you and your parenting partner reach a resolution. Once an agreement is reached, it will be properly documented through a vaccine agreement which can also be utilized in the future for boosters or other vaccines that are not related to COVID-19.
We’re Here to Help
If you have any legal questions about how your shared parenting agreement pertains to vaccinations and COVID-19 precautions, please give us a call at (980) 260-1600. Our Charlotte-based team is here to help you and your family.
Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.