Custody Agreements and Covid-19 Vaccinations


With the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine now available for children five years of age and above, many co-parents find themselves in contentious disagreements they never imagined. Across the state of California and throughout the nation, co-parents feel vehemently on either side of the child Covid-19 vaccination debate. They are left with many unanswered questions. How should this substantial issue be handled between co-parents? Is there a compromise? Who has the final say in what happens? Here are some tips and options that co-parents who disagree on how to proceed in this matter should consider.

Remain Calm

As with other matters and disagreements, it’s best to remain calm and attempt to discuss the situation with your child’s other parent as two mature adults. This isn’t an emergency situation, and it’s okay to take some time to think about it and talk it through. It’s in the best interest of each parent and their children if the matter can be handled in this way.

Your Children’s Involvement

This is not a decision you should involve your children in as a general rule. As their parent, you are responsible for their health and decisions about their medical care. However, depending on the maturity of your teenage child, you may choose to ask their opinion in the matter and consider it when making your decision. You should also be careful not to discuss the issue or argue about it around your children. They often pick up on more than you know, and they may end up feeling guilty or as if they are forced to pick sides.

Points to Consider

Whether to vaccinate children against Covid-19 or not is a complex issue for many families. It’s rarely cut and dry, and there are many factors to consider. Co-parents who disagree are encouraged to look at all sides of the matter, including points such as:

No matter who has legal custody of the children, co-parents should attempt to discuss each other’s questions and concerns and consider each other’s position. Some points to think about include:

  • How much do you and your child’s other parent know about the COVID-19 vaccine? Share what resources your information came from and what concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine for children they do or don’t raise.
  • Do you or the co-parent have any pre-existing higher risk health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, asthma, cancer, or cystic fibrosis? If yes, this is one factor that suggests you should consider having your child vaccinated.
  • Do any of your children have pre-existing higher-risk health conditions? What about other family members, such as half-siblings or grandparents who are frequently around? This is another factor in favor of getting the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Will forgoing the vaccination impact your child’s eligibility to attend school in-person or involvement in extracurricular activities? This is the deciding factor for many co-parents, particularly if their children are quite social or are passionate about an activity or sport.
  • What does your child’s pediatrician recommend? Especially when co-parents can’t agree, getting the advice of your child’s pediatrician will provide both parents with medically sound and neutral advice.
  • Is there a child or family history of vaccine reactions? This type of medical history should also be factored into the co-parents’ decision.

Defer to the Custody Agreement

In essence, a disagreement over the COVID-19 vaccine between co-parents should be treated like any other disagreement regarding medical care, education, or religious upbringing. If parents aren’t familiar with their custody agreement, now is a good time to review it. Decisions about the vaccine don’t generally involve physical custody issues but rather legal custody. Sometimes one parent has complete legal custody, other times co-parents share this responsibility, and other times they share it. Still, one parent has final decision-making authority over the other. If co-parents disagree on whether their children should have the vaccine, they should defer to their custody agreement. If this doesn’t settle the matter, they may want to seek legal help or even intervention from the court if necessary.

Talk to a California Family Law Attorney

Suppose you and your ex have used these tips and considered these factors but still can’t agree on if your children should get the COVID-19 vaccine. In that case, you may want to meet with a California family law attorney. Like any other issue that co-parents might disagree on, it can often help to have the advice of an experienced lawyer. They may be able to help with negotiations or even mediation. If this matter must go before the court, they can also represent you before a judge.