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Divorce attorney discusses COVID-19 vaccination decision when parents are divorced

Missing Gavel
Posted at 8:33 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-03 20:37:02-04

INDIANAPOLIS— As health care providers begin to provide vaccines to kids ages 5-11 in Central Indiana, many families are having conversations about whether or not to vaccinate their young children.

However, those discussions can be quite difficult if the parents are divorced.

Indianapolis divorce attorney Cassie Ringlespagh said they’re seeing a lot of disagreements on the issue.

“We are seeing this a lot and we are learning as we go as well,” said Ringlespaugh. “Each judge is basing decisions differently. You want to consider what is the reason they're objecting. Is it a medical reason, is it a religious belief, do you just not know?"

Ringlespaugh said a judge will look at the reasons behind the parent’s concerns when deciding what to do.

It also depends on what the divorce decree says regarding which parent has authority over the child’s medical decisions and care.

“There is legal custody and physical custody and legal custody means you have the legal right to make decisions for that child,” said Ringlespaugh. “That typically means school decisions, religious decisions and major medical decisions. So, the parent that has legal custody would be the parent who would determine whether the child gets a COVID vaccination or any vaccination. The problem lies when parents have joint legal custody. One parent wants the vaccination and the other doesn't.”

If parents have joint custody and are at a stalemate, Ringlespaugh said you should seek information from your child’s doctor first.

“I do think that will hold a great deal of weight in the courtroom,” said Ringlespaugh. “My next piece of advice would be do your best to figure out something because you know the most about your situation and the person deciding is going to know the least about it."

For married parents who can’t agree, one parent could get the child vaccinated without the other’s consent.

However, if the divorce is filed, but they don’t yet have a divorce decree they should look at what is in the court record.

“If they're in the middle of a divorce they should have a preliminary order that's going to say who has physical and legal custody,” said Ringlespaugh.

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