Divorced parents working through co-parenting issues have yet another hurdle to deal with: Whether or not to vaccine their children against COVID-19.

With the vaccine rollout and testing beginning in children 12 and under, the decision of whether or not to vaccine has become another challenge for divorced parents.

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Whether or not to vaccinate a child is a legal custody issue, said Sheryl Seiden, founding partner at Seiden Family Law in Cranford. Most parents have joint legal custody of their children in the Garden State so this is a decision that both parents need to discuss and consent to before vaccinating a child.

If and when resistance from one parent happens, she recommends parents have a genuine and compassionate conversation about their concerns.

She also recommends parents meet with their pediatrician to see if the COVID vaccine is medically appropriate for the child. It's important to understand why one parent may be against the vaccine while the other parent is in favor of it.

The decision-making rule about vaccines pertains to whether or not the parents have joint legal custody, which is the norm in New Jersey, said Seiden. Regardless of how much time the other parent spends with the child, the decision should be made by both parents unless it's a situation where one parent has full authority on medical decisions or sole custody, which is unusual in New Jersey.

After speaking to each other and the pediatrician, Seiden said they can have a parenting coordinator or a mediator get involved. But she said this is a decision that should be made based on the medical advice as opposed to by the courts.

Of course, parents could take the issue to the courts and have a judge make a decision. The issue of whether to vaccinate a child in general is not new.

"I think in deciding those cases the court is going to look at what's historically been done," said Seiden.

If a family has given their child all of the vaccinations that have been prescribed by a doctor, it might be hard to argue that the COVID-19 vaccine shouldn't be given to the child if it's medically recommende.

Seiden said the courts would also consider whether the child or either of the parents have any risk factors for COVID-19; the child's exposure risk to the virus; whether the child has had any previous reactions to vaccines; and whether the vaccine is required for the child's school.

"That's probably where the cases will follow in the future. But at this time, it's too soon to tell. It hasn't been tested yet. I think that will be on the horizon for legal battles to come, so stay tuned," said Seiden.

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