Parenting decisions can be tough to agree on, even when you have an excellent relationship with your former spouse. Now that vaccines for COVID-19 are available to children at least 12 years old, you have more decisions to make. What if your ex doesn’t agree with your stance on vaccinations for your child?
Legal Custody and Decision-Making
There are three types of legal custody, often referred to as conservatorship, in Texas:
- Sole managing conservatorship – One parent is responsible for the child’s care, including having the final say on significant decisions, such as medical treatments and vaccinations.
- Joint managing conservatorship – Both parents share custody and decision-making authority.
- Possessory conservatorship – One parent is the primary caregiver, and the other parent has visitation rights. In some cases, a non-parent may be the sole managing conservator, and both parents are possessory conservators.
Joint conservatorship is the most common custody arrangement because being with both parents is often in the child’s best interests. However, this situation creates confusion when it comes to making decisions about vaccinating a child.
If you and your ex created your custody arrangement without a judge, you should have developed guidelines for making major medical decisions. In some cases, the agreement stipulates that the parents must agree on the procedure, or one parent may be designated as the final decision-maker.
Can a Child Make the Final Decision?
In Texas, a minor cannot get a vaccine without their parents’ consent. Therefore, the parents must make the decision based on the stipulations in their custody or separation agreement. Children who are 18 or older don’t need their parents’ consent for vaccination.
In most cases, parents should consult with their children before making this decision for them. Doing so enables open communication within the family and supports the child’s growing autonomy.
How to Come to a Final Decision
Even when you consider your child’s opinion, separated parents may have strong views about vaccinations. A mediator can help you work through your options and come to a decision. If parents have a joint conservatorship and cannot agree, they may need to go to court and have a judge decide.
The judge may rule that the child’s pediatrician can make the final decision regarding vaccination consent. They may also give one parent final decision-making power over this scenario.
If you go to court, you’ll need an experienced family law attorney to represent you, or you may want to have an attorney look over your custody agreement to determine which parent can provide consent. In many joint conservatorships, as long as one parent provides consent, the child can receive the vaccination even if the other parent disagrees.
If you’re not sure what to do, contact The Law Office of Rebecca J. Carrillo to schedule a $70 consultation today to learn more about your options.