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Disagreements on Vaccinations in a Time of COVID

Dec 6, 2021 | Child Custody, Rights and Duties

For many in Texas, children and teens across the State will begin returning to school in August. Understandably, many parents may be concerned about vaccinations – especially during these times of COVID.  By law, Texas does have certain legal requirements specifying the minimum vaccination requirements for public and private elementary and secondary schools.

Where Can I Find the Minimum Requirements?

In Texas, the Department of State Health Services (“DSHS”) has been given the authority to set immunization requirements. The specific vaccination requirements are summarized by the DSHS on its website which can be accessed by clicking here. Texas law does allow for exemptions from vaccination requirements. More information on those exemptions can be found on the DSHS website as well. As of today, there is no Texas requirement for children who attend school to be vaccinated from COVID-19. However, local school districts may have different requirements and parents should check with their local school/school district on specific vaccination requirements for their children.

What if We Disagree on Vaccinations?

Generally, in Texas, both parties may be appointed as joint managing conservators (unless it is not in the best interest of the children). Typically, a divorce decree will provide guidance on who may make decisions for the children that are emergent, non-intrusive, and/or elective. It may provide one parent with the exclusive right or duty to make decisions independently or it may award rights to both parents, where parents must consult on the decision. In the latter arrangement, which is the more typical arrangement, the parents will need to confer before making a decision regarding the health of the children.   The divorce court or child custody court will have to determine which parent will have the ability to make the decision for non-emergency, invasive medical care.  This decision does not include emergencies or non-invasive medical care.  The court will use the best interests of the child or children standard in determining which parent makes the decision.  Oftentimes, a parent in a child custody dispute will agree that the parents make these decisions jointly.  The only downside is if there is not an agreement as to an invasive medical decision, then the child custody modification must be filed for the court to resolve the disagreement.  There are sometimes tie-breakers built into a child custody order, that will state in absence of an agreement, the child’s pediatrician will decide or treating physician.

How do We Resolve the Disagreement?

The first step is to make an attempt to confer and agree on decisions being made for the children, especially when considering an important medical decision such as whether to vaccinate children and what vaccinations are to be administered. Sometimes, one parent may hold strong convictions or beliefs on vaccinations. However, when parents disagree, we must turn to the language of the divorce decree to determine who, if anyone, may have the ultimate decision-making authority for the children. Ultimately, a Court may make the decision on vaccination based on the child’s best interest.

Sometimes, agreements can’t be reached, in such a scenario it will be important to speak with a Houston Family Lawyer who can help you with understanding who has what rights and responsibilities under the decree. Sometimes, lawyers for the parents are able to help work out an agreement. There are times where it may be necessary to petition the Court for assistance in resolving the issue. Call our office at (713) 229-8855 and speak to one of our experienced family lawyers if you are facing a disagreement that cannot be resolved between the parents. We are here to help you when you face this kind of issue.

* At Skillern Firm, we pride ourselves on the results we have achieved for those we help. We stand ready to assist you with any of your Family Law needs. Contact us today.