The COVID-19 Vaccination Is Here

If the other parent will not vaccinate, will the courts stop parenting time?

We have been waiting for the vaccine to the coronavirus for a long time. Now, today the first COVID-19 vaccination administered in the U.S., we know it will soon be distributed. Most people are waiting anxiously for this vaccine, but there are individuals that do not want to be vaccinated. For parents that are divorced or no longer together, the question of vaccination can become a point of contention. If you get your vaccination, and the other parent will not will the court allow parenting time with your child to continue? If the other parent is employed, won’t they have to get the vaccination to keep their job?

Will a Judge Order a Parent to be Vaccinated?

Requiring the child to be vaccinated and requiring a parent to be vaccinated are two different things, however. Many parents argue to the court that the other parent should do things to make them a better parent, arguments wrapped up in the “child’s best interest” standard. Some arguments work. Judges have ordered a parent to engage in anger management classes, to be drug tested before they pick up their child, and engage in other safety measures to ensure the child is safe with that parent. But can a judge order a parent to be vaccinated themselves?

Will employers be able to mandate the COVID-19 vaccination for their employees?

I spoke to an excellent labor lawyer I know, Laura A. Balson, a partner at the law firm of GOLAN | CHRISTIE | TAGLIA LLP to get her advice on the subject. Laura wrote, “Unless an employee is given a written contract that guarantees employment for a specific period of time, all employees are employed “at-will.” What that means is that any employer can fire any employee, with or without notice and with or without a reason, so long as the employer doesn’t do so on an illegal basis.

If You Live in a State that Does Not Mandate Vaccinations, Does that Help or Hurt Your Argument?

In August of 2020, Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert, said that the vaccine will not be mandated, but encouraged. When it comes to public health, states are generally in charge of this decision. If Illinois does not mandate the COVID-19 vaccination for its citizens, can a parent opposed to vaccinations use that fact in support of their unwillingness to vaccinate? Sure. A parent can argue anything they want, but judges (in my opinion) do not care what parents want. Once a parent is before the court, the court cares about the child, not so much about the parent.

Start Discussing the COVID-19 Vaccination with the Other Parent Now

Start having a discussion now about the vaccine with the other parent. Parents already differ about social distancing and in general, how much activity outside the house is wise. Some parents do not want the other parent traveling now and taking the child to restaurants. If the child is exposed, the child can go home to the other parent and expose that entire household. A lot of family law litigation already exists about activities outside the home, so I can only imagine that the vaccination argument is right around the corner. While you are negotiating your parenting agreement, try and include a provision about the vaccination requirement for parents. It will be easier to resolve the issue now before the vaccination becomes available.

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