The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone profoundly. The world shut down, jobs were lost, and unfortunately, many families separated, both physically and emotionally. An unforeseen consequence of the pandemic and its quarantine was that many couples, many parents, and many marriages saw the need for separation.
The Edwards Law Group has years of experience dealing with family law. We have practiced family law in Atlanta and throughout Georgia for over a decade. This legal practice area can be seen as being extremely messy, after all, divorces can be full of emotions. Our practice prides itself in taking the “ugly” out of family law, we help steer our clients through this sometimes turbulent process by giving them calm and expert advice, as well as representation in court. While preparing for a divorce and or child support/custody case; many questions arise. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, one question has recently gained attention. What happens if one parent does not want their child to be vaccinated?
In this blog, we want to help answer this question!
How does custody work?
In Georgia custody can be separated into four categories. There is joint legal and physical custody, where both parents share the rights to make decisions for their child(ren) and have physical custody. There can be variations as well. One parent can have both legal and physical custody of their child. The courts decide custody based on the best interest of the child. The courts consider both parent’s lifestyles, history, and relationship with the child or children. The idea that a single parent, for example, the mother, is favored as the sole physical guardian is an outdated concept. Courts have been moving towards joint custody for many years. Yet, this raises the question of legal custody. If parents share legal custody of their child and they object to medical treatment, like vaccines, being administered to their child, for moral, religious, or health reasons, what are the repercussions?
Vaccination and Child Custody
A recent study showed that parental attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine are about 60-40. Meaning, about 40% of parents are unsure of whether to have their children vaccinated. This is an understandable predicament, regardless of their beliefs towards vaccines in general. But, what if the parents are separated or divorced? Can a whole custody agreement change due to a parent’s insistence on vaccinating their child, say for COVID-19?
While the pandemic has slowed down, legal cases for this specific issue are occurring more and more with some schools mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for children to return to “in-person” learning . Only time can tell what the courts will decide. However, looking back at past cases in some states, there is some precedent. For example, a case in New Jersey, where a joint-legal custody agreement was forged during a separation, dealt with parents disagreeing over the vaccination of their child. One parent claimed their child was immunocompromised and thus should not be receiving vaccines. The parents took the case to family court and ultimately due to the circumstances, the court awarded medical custody to the parent who wanted their child vaccinated. Since states have different laws regarding their family law cases, ultimately this topic will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis and by individual judges.
Do you have a family law case; deciding on child custody, child support, or getting a divorce? Contact The Edwards Law Group. We are based in Atlanta, Georgia, and practice throughout Georgia. We have years of experience and results in these matters. Contact us for a consultation.