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Can the COVID-19 Vaccine Affect My Child Custody Arrangement?


The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been full of uncertainties. With all of the confusion, it can be difficult to discern what move is the right one. Parents have to take their children’s well-being into consideration. This decision can be further complicated when two parents disagree, which becomes a legal issue in shared child custody arrangements. If one parent wants to have their children vaccinated and the other parent is against vaccination, it may cause legal disputes.

Can Children Receive a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Many people are fearful of the unknown side effects of the available COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved in the United States. A process that normally takes years was executed in mere months. Another source of hesitancy may have to do with a lack of confidence in a vaccine’s effectiveness.

Currently, children cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), the Moderna vaccine is being distributed to recipients who are over 18 years old, and the Pfizer shot is only approved for those over 16 years old. Once trials indicate that the vaccines are safe and effective for children, schools may mandate vaccination in order for students to return to in-person classes.

The lack of official endorsement for vaccination in children causes parents to be more reluctant. Other parents see the protective benefits of the vaccines, believing in the medical promise as well as the potential for the children to return to normal life with school and friends. A lot of parents are willing to take on the task of homeschooling to keep their children from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Which Parent can Make the Decision About the Vaccine?

When parents have a joint custody agreement, they both equally make decisions that affect their children. Unlike sole custody situations, joint legal custody means that regardless of the child’s living arrangement, both parents have equal say in the legal decisions that affect the child, including medical choices. When parents cannot come to an agreement on such legal issues, the courts may become involved. For this to happen, one or the other parent typically files a motion for the court to rule on the matter.

How can I Support My Case?

It has not been uncommon for parents to disagree fundamentally about issues of childrearing during the current COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to vaccines, several possible disputes exist that present legal issues that may lead to court involvement. The question of whether or not to allow the child to be vaccinated is one issue, but settling this controversy may be more complicated by medical or schooling concerns. For example, a ruling that backs up one parent’s refusal to vaccinate may affect whether or not the child can return to in-person learning. In such a case, the parent in opposition to vaccination may demand that the child be homeschooled. This would require an evaluation of the cost-benefit analysis regarding the social, educational, and financial implications of homeschooling.

Another solution to avoiding school-mandated vaccination might be to receive a medical or religious exemption. However, in this situation, the court will need to determine if either parent has the right to seek such an exemption.

A judge will hear all kinds of evidence meant to convince the court to side with one parent over the other. In a case that involves vaccination, a parent opposed to vaccination may present a medical argument that the vaccine is unsafe. To support this claim, they may enlist the child’s pediatrician or some other medical expert to lay out the argument against vaccination, such as medical restrictions.

In a homeschool case, a parent should come armed with information on the homeschooling program and evidence to support how the new arrangement will provide good educational opportunities for the child. The parent making such an argument should also be persuasive in explaining how the arrangement will still meet the child’s need for socialization. Another concern has to do with the possible financial burden put on the family if one of the parents has to stop working in order to homeschool the children.

Additionally, one factor that may have a strong effect on the court’s decision is parental involvement. If it is clear that one parent has historically been making medical and educational decisions for the child, the judge may put more weight on that parent’s side of the vaccination issue. It may be argued that one parent’s strong feeling on this one issue should not interfere in an established parental decision-making arrangement. If parents are in disagreement about vaccination, it is advisable to consult with a lawyer.

Baltimore County Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Clients Assert Their Parental Rights

A Baltimore County custody lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can help you protect your parental rights by presenting your case to safeguard your child’s well-being. Contact us online or call us at 443-589-0150 for a free consultation. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.

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