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Legal Custody and Disputes over COVID-19 Vaccination

When parents divorce, one of the major issues that needs to be resolved is that of “legal custody.” Legal custody refers to the right to determine major factors regarding the children’s upbringing, especially in areas of education, religion, and medical treatment. If a parent has sole legal custody, he or she gets to make those decisions; When parents have joint legal custody, they have equal rights and responsibilities to participate in such decision-making. Problems can arise when parents don’t see eye-to-eye on the issues.

As COVID-19 vaccines are approved for younger and younger children, disputes between divorced parents regarding vaccination are becoming more common. Courts and mediators are beginning to see disagreements between the parents over whether their children should be vaccinated.

When discussing an issue such as vaccination with your ex, there are several things to keep in mind:

1. Try to separate your feelings for your ex in making the decision. Remember, this isn’t about you or the other parent; it is about what is best for the children.

2. Do your best to stay factual. There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 in general, and vaccines in particular. Do your best to separate actual science from conspiracy theories.

3. Try to respect your ex’s point of view, even if you disagree. Degrading the other parent or calling them names is very unlikely to help.

If all else fails, and you do need to go to court, you will need to provide evidence to support your views. CDC guidelines are likely to carry a lot of weight and, in most cases, I think that the Court is likely to side with the parent seeking to vaccinate their children (and I strongly encourage vaccination in most situations). If your child has a genuine medical condition that would affect the ability to tolerate the vaccine, you will want to have your pediatrician provide an affidavit to that effect.

To discuss custody matters or any family law issue, call Kruse Family Law PLLC at 612.231.9865 or email

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