In Texas, it’s common for divorced parents to have joint managing conservatorship over their children. Joint conservatorship is supposed to give divorced parents an equal say about important issues that can affect their children’s well-being — including their health care.
What happens, then, when a child’s parents are diametrically opposed in their viewpoints on an important issue, like whether or not to get their child vaccinated?
Review your custody order for guidance
The odds are high that you don’t recall every detail of your custody order and parenting plan — especially when it comes to issues that weren’t disputed at the time they were drafted. If you’re lucky, your documents may provide some clarity. For example, yours may:
- Allocate final decision-making authority over certain issues to just one parent, to avoid situations where a “tie-breaker” is needed
- Give final decision-making authority on health care disputes to a specific, qualified authority, such as your child’s pediatrician or your family physician
- Require you and your co-parent to attempt to reach a negotiated solution through mediation before resorting to other legal actions
When both parents want the best for their child but are unable to agree on what that means, conflicts will ensue. Regardless of your personal feelings about vaccinations, it’s important not to take unilateral action without the court’s official sanction — whether that comes through your existing order or a new order. Doing so could put your future rights as your child’s joint conservator in danger.
Sometimes, the only thing you can do is seek legal guidance so that you know what your options really are given the unique facts of your situation.