In custody cases, courts are often faced with the difficult decision of which parent should be awarded legal custody of the minor child. Legal custody provides a parent with the authority to make major long-term decisions about a child’s medical and mental health care, education, religious training, and extracurricular activities. The court can decide legal custody to one parent, both parents, one parent for certain issues only, or both parents with one parent having tie-breaking authority when the parents cannot reach a joint decision. In determining legal custody, the court must decide what is in the “best interest” of the child.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the courts would infrequently hear cases where the issue of legal custody was disputed because of child vaccination issues. However, because of the rising debate over the need and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for children, the courts may begin to see more custody disputes center around this issue.
Whether one parent’s refusal will negatively impact a legal custody dispute will depend on the facts of each case. For example, is there a medical reason why the COVID-19 vaccine may not be appropriate for the child? Is the child at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications if not vaccinated? Has the parent refused to consent to other vaccines for the child? Has the parent objected to other medical care based on irrational beliefs or unscientific evidence? Is the parent’s objection based on religious beliefs?
A parent in a contested custody dispute can benefit from having skilled legal representation. The attorney will gather and present all of the facts to the court so that a proper custody determination can be made that balances the right of the parent to make medical decisions and the safety and welfare of the child.
Dana McKee is an experienced family law attorney, who has successfully represented many parents in custody disputes, including those involving a parent’s refusal to vaccinate or follow other recommendations of the child’s healthcare provider. If you have a custody matter, or anything that requires a family law attorney with proven experience dealing with difficult and complex cases, please call Dana McKee at (410) 962-1030 for a consultation today.