MONIQUE BATSON — Divorced parents split on COVID vaccine now face new challenge as companies prep to immunize kids

Published 12:02 am Friday, April 23, 2021

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It seems more often than not, divorcing or unmarried parents are trending towards 50/50 custody of their children. Everything — from extracurricular activities to medical decisions — are made together and in the best interest of the children.

I’ve found in most families I know, it’s not difficult to reach an agreement, as the couples were mostly aligned prior to putting papers in place.

But the arrival of COVID-19 and the subsequent vaccine has brought with it a lot of choices that no parent saw coming early last year.

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Decisions on whether or not to mask the children weren’t a problem when mandates were in place. But now it’s at the discretion of the parent.

For the past year, those with shared custody had to trust that the kids were kept out of large groups and that virus exposure was kept to a minimum, since they could potentially spread it between two households.

But the decision on whether or not to vaccinate is something most adults, whether for or against, have very strong opinions on.

Earlier this month, Pfizer requested FDA approval to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children 12-17. And Pfizer and Moderna are in clinical trials to test the shot in children as young as 6 months.

Judith Smith, director of health services for the Port Arthur Health Department, said the local center is preparing for the possibility that it soon will be vaccinating children, particularly as families prepare for the 2021-2022 school year in the fall. Right now, the center has a small amount of Pfizer vaccines on hand, since it has already been approved for ages 16 and up.

But it’s becoming more evident that co-parenting is about to come with a whole new challenge.

A December study by the Pew Research Center said approximately 40 percent of Americans did not plan to take the COVID vaccine.

That’s almost half of the adults in the U.S.

And soon, the conversation will turn to parents ­— many of whom are split on the decision to vaccinate themselves.

So what do you do when one parent is pro-vaccine and one is not?

“If they’re divorced, they would probably have to go back to court,” said attorney Carl Parker. “That’s the only way to resolve it.”

In many 50/50 agreements, Parker said, one parent is given the designated right to make residential and medical decisions, while the 50/50 primarily deals with visitation. However, many give both parents equal right to consent to medical decisions.

Parker said those wanting to avoid the cost of a courtroom can try going through a mediator to come to an agreement.

“This is something the law wasn’t ready for,” he said.


Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at