When Co-Parents Disagree about the Covid Vaccine for Kids, Who Decides?


Being a parent means wanting the best for your children. However, parents, especially those who are co-parenting, don’t always agree on what is best. Sometimes they can agree to disagree and move on with their lives. Other times the issue may not be a significant one in one parent’s mind, so they acquiesce with what the other parent wants.

However, many co-parents are facing disagreements on a larger scale when it comes to vaccinating their kids against COVID-19. There’s a deep division in society about whether the pros of vaccines for children outweigh the cons. It’s no wonder this has become a highly contested issue between co-parents. In fact, a recent Harris poll reveals that as many as 25 percent of parents don’t approve of their children receiving the vaccine. Most cite concerns with effectiveness or safety.

Vaccines Approved for Kids

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15. Last month, the same vaccine received approval for kids as young as five. As such, more co-parents are facing the difficulties of disagreements regarding whether their children should receive the vaccine now.

Who Decides?

Whether you are the parent who wants your kids vaccinated or the parent who disagrees, the decision is usually up to your co-parenting or custody agreement. In any significant disagreement, you’ll want to first refer to your custody paperwork. Healthcare decisions, including vaccinations, are generally determined by who has legal custody.

Sole Legal Custody

Suppose one parent was given sole legal custody of their child. In that case, they are the one who has the authority to make the decision about the child receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Even if the other parent objects, they have the right to decide.

Joint Legal Custody

In situations of joint legal custody, the court expects the co-parents to discuss these matters together and come up with a jointly backed decision. However, this is always possible, especially in a highly contestable matter such as this vaccine. Sometimes one parent still has final decision-making authority over the other in joint legal custody arrangements. If this applies in your case, that parent gets the final say.

Contact a California Family Law Attorney

Suppose you still feel strongly that the wrong decision is being made for your children regarding their COVID-19 vaccine. In that case, it’s time to reach out to a California family law attorney. Your lawyer can review your custody agreement and possibly arrange for mediation to help you and your child’s other parent reach a decision together.

Going to Court

In cases where parents still can’t agree on a crucial matter, they can ask the court to make a determination. It’s always best if the co-parents can work through the issue independent of the court. However, the court is available if a solution can’t be agreed upon.


In cases like these, the judge doesn’t necessarily care about your personal opinions. Instead, they want evidence, such as testimony from a trusted medical provider or other medical experts supporting your position.

Parental Involvement

The judge might also consider which parent has historically been the one involved or making decisions in the child’s medical care. For instance, if the child’s father is more involved in the child’s healthcare and more familiar with their health history, the judge may rule in favor of whatever he wants.

Religious Beliefs

Another consideration for the court concerning COVID-19 vaccines is religious beliefs. If one parent is against the vaccine because of religious reasons, they may obtain the court’s favor. On the other hand, the court might view it as a convenient excuse on the part of the parent claiming religious reasons.

School Requirements

If the school your child attends requires them to get the vaccine, the court will take this into account when making their decision.

Your Child’s Desires

In cases where the child is older, generally at least 12 or 14, the judge may talk to them. They want to know how they feel about the manner and will factor their feelings into their decision.

Legal Help is Available

COVID-19 has made nearly everyone face difficult decisions. Unfortunately, sometimes these decisions pit parents against each other, even though they both want the best for their children. If you need help making vaccine decisions with your co-parent for your children, be sure to seek the help of a California family attorney. It’s possible your attorney could help you negotiate with your child’s other parent. If not, they can represent your interests in court.