For over a year now, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe. In recent months, however, there has been some apparent light at the end of the proverbial tunnel in the form of Covid vaccines. Most recently, children over the age of 12 were approved to receive the vaccine. For some parents, that was welcome news; however, not all parents want their child to be vaccinated. What if divorced (or divorcing) parents cannot agree on vaccinating a child? A Murfreesboro divorce lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby discusses what happens if divorced parents disagree on giving a child the Covid-19 vaccine.
If the Divorce Is Final and You Disagree
As part of any divorce involving minor children the parents must submit a Parenting Plan to the Court for approval. The goal of a Parenting Plan is to ensure that both parents remain constructively involved in parenting the children after the divorce is over. In the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Code Section 36-6-404 governs the requirements of a Parenting Plan which must accomplish at least the following:
- Creating a schedule that sets forth, in detail, when the child will spend parenting time with each parent during the school year, summer break, and holidays.
- Deciding who will have day-to-day and major decision-making authority.
- Deciding who will pay for things such as medical insurance and expenses, day care, and extracurricular activities.
- Setting the amount of child support one parent will pay to the other.
- Determining how much contact the non-residential parent may have with the child and how that contact may occur (telephone, computer etc.)
- Providing an outline for how disputes will be handled.
One parent is usually designated as the “Primary Residential Parent (PRP)” with the other parent becoming the “Alternative Residential Parent (ARP).” The PRP typically has what is known as “major decision-making authority.” Sometimes, however, the parents will be awarded joint decision-making authority.
The Covid Vaccine
If you ask a random sample of adults about how they feel regarding the Covid vaccine you are likely to get a range of responses. If adults cannot agree about how they feel regarding the vaccine for adults, it is no surprise that parents may disagree regarding the wisdom of getting a minor child vaccinated. Where does that leave you if you and your former (or soon-to-be former) spouse disagree about vaccinating your child?
The answer to that question is less than crystal clear as this is a unique legal dilemma. Regarding standard childhood vaccines, the law typically holds that if you have final or major decision-making authority under the terms of your divorce, you have the legal authority to make the decision yourself regarding vaccinating your child. If you have joint decision-making authority, you and your former spouse must agree to medical treatment, including vaccines. The Covid-19 vaccine, however, is not a standard childhood vaccine. That alone may complicate the legal issues involved in a disagreement between parents. Moreover, even if you have major decision-making authority, your child’s other parent can ask the court having jurisdiction over your divorce to resolve a dispute involving a major decision. Although courts tend to be reluctant to get involved if one parent clearly has major decision-making authority, an issue such as giving a child the Covid-19 vaccine is an issue not contemplated at the time of the divorce, making it more likely that a court would agree to intervene.
Because of the potentially contentious nature of the issues involved, you should speak to an experienced divorce attorney immediately if it appears that you and your former spouse cannot agree on the issue of administering the Covid-19 vaccine to your minor child.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you have additional questions about how to handle a disagreement regarding the Covid-19 vaccine for your minor child in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce lawyer to discuss your legal options. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.