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Specialty tag(s): Child Custody

What Happens When Co-parents Disagree on the COVID Vaccine in Texas?

Lindsey Obenhaus | August 17, 2021

The continued presence of COVID-19 has put co-parents in situations they’ve never had to consider before.  Experienced Family Law Attorney Lindsey Obenhaus shares what Texas parents need to know if they disagree on vaccinating their children against COVID-19.

Co-parents who are not married or divorced are being faced with the decision of whether or not to vaccinate their children against COVID-19. The decision to administer vaccines to children has been a source of debate between some parents for years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced this issue to arise more frequently in Texas family law. Parents are concerned about the risks associated with vaccinating their child against COVID, or not, depending on their concerns about safety, school, travel, and more.

Child Custody Orders

If you and your co-parent cannot agree on the decision of whether to vaccinate your children, then parents must look at their existing court orders for child custody.  

In most Texas parenting plans, one or both parents may have:

  1. A duty to provide non-invasive medical treatment to children;
  2. A right to make decisions involving invasive medical treatment for their children

It is important to read the language of the custody order carefully. Do both parents have this right and duty independently? Does only one parent have them? Do the parents need to agree?  Does one parent need to consult with the other before making any decisions? These are common provisions that will often vary between orders.

The Court’s Role

The Court will need to decide if a vaccine is an “invasive procedure” or not. At the time of publishing this article, this issue is not clear cut in the law and individual Courts may treat this question differently. Using the definition of this term from the Texas Health and Safety Code, vaccines are arguably not an invasive procedure. There have been rulings by Texas judges that vaccinations were not an invasive procedure. However, some family law attorneys are making the argument that vaccinations are invasive medical procedures. There is no case law authority one way or another at the time of publishing this blog post and it may vary between cases.

If co-parents do not have an underlying court order for child custody, then it should be assumed that either parent can independently administer a vaccine to the child, absent special circumstances.

Consulting a Pediatrician

It is important that, in addition to talking to the other co-parent,  parents also consult with their child’s pediatrician and trusted medical professionals to decide what is best for their unique situation. Another resource is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which employs a vast number of medical professionals and researchers and sets national health policy. The information on the CDC website is current and can be a helpful resource to consult when making decisions about the COVID vaccine.

If you and your co-parent are not in agreement about the decision to administer the COVID (or other) vaccine to your child, it is important to talk to an experienced Texas family law attorney about your rights and options. Goranson Bain Ausley attorneys are here to help every step of the way.

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