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Divorced Parents at Odds Over Vaccines for Children

Cropped shot of a divorced couple having a disagreement. Their arms are crossed and they are sitting next to each other.

When couples with children divorce, it is not unusual for there to be several discussions and disagreements involving parenting issues. But in 2021, a new source of contention between divorced parents is being seen by lawyers – whether or not to let their children be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in adolescents aged 12 to 15. The agency determined that “the known and potential benefits of this vaccine in individuals 12 years of age and older outweigh the known and potential risks.”

“Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. at the time.

But not all parents are convinced.

Opinions can differ on vaccination

Brad Novak – a divorced father – is vaccinated. But he said he was not comfortable with the idea of having his 13-year-old daughter vaccinated because there are too many unknowns. Novak said he wasn’t sure how the vaccine would affect his daughter’s body or her potential for having children.

But Novak noted that his ex-wife took their daughter to be vaccinated weeks before despite his objections. Novak said he was told about the plans for vaccination but chose not to fight it in court.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 12 and older – as does the American Academy of Pediatrics, unless there are contraindications.

Disputes over vaccinations had been increasing over the last few months. School policies and restrictions in public places have put more pressure on parents to get their children vaccinated. While many worry about possible long-term consequences, every situation is different, and what is appropriate for one family might be different than what is best for another family.

How vaccination issues are being resolved

The final decision on whether children get vaccinated depends on the terms of the divorce. Some parents have sole responsibility for medical decisions. Others share this responsibility. Many parenting agreements require parents who disagree to try mediation to resolve their disputes. If that doesn’t work, the issue will likely end up in court.

When the terms of a current order do not resolve the vaccination issue, judges have been looking to science for guidelines in cases involving vaccination disputes.

Contact a divorce attorney to explore your options

There is a lot to think about when getting a divorce. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side. An attorney can anticipate issues involving raising children that may arise in the future and help you address them in a divorce agreement.

At Hocker Law, LLC, attorney Rachel A. East has years of experienced handling divorce cases in Indiana. She can help you resolve issues involving spousal maintenance, child custody, child support, visitation rights, and property division. She can also help you determine which type of divorce would work best for you.

Learn more about how we can help. If you are getting a divorce, considering one, or you're divorced and dealing with vaccination issues, contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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