By Attorney Erin M. Idler, Hansen & Hildebrand, S.C.
The ongoing health concerns of COVID-19 virus has left families around the world with questions about how to best protect themselves and others. The development and ultimate approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children age 6 months and up has added additional issues for families in which the parents do not agree on vaccinating their children
Joint Custody and Vaccination
In Wisconsin, when parents have joint legal custody (legal decision-making for the child), a court does not make the medical decision about vaccination; instead, a court will have a hearing and then order which parent will make the medical decision. The determination of which parent will have decision-making authority for medical decisions is based on the best interests of the child standard.
Courts around the country, and even globally, are facing this issue. There is not a universal legal answer on whether children should be vaccinated or not. Courts rely on the best interest standard and have to make decisions allocating parental decision-making based upon the interests of the specific child in front of them, not generally for all children.
In Wisconsin, if this issue is legally contested, the judge will appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), an attorney appointed to advocate for a child’s best interests, which is required under Wisconsin law anytime there is a dispute over legal custody or physical placement. The GAL does an investigation regarding the child’s best interests, gives a recommendation to the court as to which parent should make medical decisions, and participates in a contested evidentiary hearing if necessary.
Coparenting Disagreements Over COVID Vaccine
So – what does this mean if you and your co-parent disagree over the COVID vaccine for your child?
One option is to meet jointly with a lawyer mediator to consider input and discuss your options. This can include working with a child specialist to help you focus on communication and the best interests of your child.
The alternative is a high conflict court proceeding that will be financially expensive and damaging to family relationships. If you want to discuss this challenging issue in a structured mediation process, please contact us.
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