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Family law attorney weighs in on how divorced or separated parents handle the choice of vaccinating children

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 10:13 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - The choice of whether or not to get children vaccinated may not be an easy one to make for many parents.

For those parents who are divorced or separated, making the joint decision may be even tougher.

“Parents especially when something is relatively new, the vaccines are very new, they don’t want to necessarily feel they are putting the child in harm’s way, said Jason Mclean, a family law attorney at Pavey, Larson, and Mclean. “At the same time, they don’t want to be the parent that’s not putting their child in the best position.”

So, what happens if parents are split on the matter?

“There are a lot of hard feelings that happen in divorce with children especially involved,” said McLean.

Another question that arises is what options does each parent have?

According to McLean, it can depend on the custody agreement and which parent has more of the decision-making rights.

In a scenario of 50/50 custody, the parents would have to come to a joint decision.

If that can not happen, there may be a need for a third party to intervene such as a mediator or an arbitrator.

McLean believes much of the conflict regarding vaccinations is due to the individual’s personal feelings about the issue.

“If it comes down to it the court is not necessarily going to take your personal feelings about the vaccine,” he said. “The court is going to look at what is in the child’s best interest.”

The decision to vaccinate children against COVID-19 could also boil down to what schools may require in the future.

“A school district may say children over a certain age must be vaccinated if they want to maintain non-masked behavior between them and other students,” he said.

McLean says there is currently no set answer as to how best to handle this kind of conflict as the pandemic has created new ways of thinking about law.

He says the best tip parents should follow is remembering these decisions are solely about the child.

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