As we get ready to gear up for back to school (already?), COVID-19 is still a word we hear on a daily basis. This likely means there are certain decisions related to COVID-19 that need to be made for your school-age children, including whether they will attend virtual or in person school and whether they will get the COVID-19 vaccine. But how does your custody agreement come into play regarding these decisions?
First, the ability to determine whether your child attends school in person or virtually will likely be considered an education decision. Your custody agreement specifies whether one parent has the exclusive right to make decisions concerning education, whether education decisions require the agreement of both parents, or whether each parent can make education decisions independently. If one parent has the exclusive right to make education decisions, the school will look to that parent’s wishes related to virtual or in person school. If education decisions require the agreement of both parents, the school will have to get both parent’s consent for the chosen school method. But what if you don’t agree? Therein lies the problem, and there is no easy solution or advice to offer related to that decision. You will likely find yourself back in the courtroom letting the Judge decide the issue, unless one of you changes their stance and agrees with the other. The same issue arises with independent decision making. If each parent has the ability to make that decision, but both parents don’t agree, who does the school listen to? If you’re having issues with determining how your child will attend school next year, the family law attorney’s at Hanshaw Kennedy Hafen, LLP are happy to take your call.
Another decision that arises when it comes to COVID-19 is “should we get our child vaccinated?” With the COVID-19 vaccine approved for children as young as 12, this is a decision many parents face as their children head back to school. However, Texas Courts have generally held that vaccinations are considered an elective invasive procedure. This means that we can look to your custody agreement again to figure out how the decision on whether to get your child vaccinated should be made. Your custody order will specify which parent has the right to make decisions concerning invasive medical procedures. Again, this could be exclusive to one parent, subject to the agreement of both parents, or independent for each parent. If the other parent has this exclusive right to make decisions concerning invasive medical procedures, you could find yourself excluded from the conversation on whether your child should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If each parent has the independent right to make this decision, you could again find yourself excluded because your agreement is not required. If the decision requires the agreement of both parents and you don’t agree, you’re stuck! Remember to look at your order before making decisions related to vaccinations to ensure you are complying with the rights ordered for each parent.
Both of these issues are new issues before the Courts, so there is a lack of precedent for most attorneys to look at to determine how the Courts will decide each issue. Regardless, if you are having issues related to your decision-making rights in your custody order, the experienced attorneys as Hanshaw Kennedy Hafen, LLP are able to help and point you in the right direction.