COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids Are Coming, But Which Co-Parent Will Call the Shots?

Divorced and separated couples with child custody arrangements make tough decisions all the time — who goes to the PTA?, who pays for the prom dress?, and what happens if Christmas falls on a weekend? Court agreements rarely cover every single obscure eventuality. So sometimes parents have to use their judgment, no matter how unpopular the decision will be.

But what about the hot-potato issue of vaccinations?

At the time of writing this blog post, Connecticut has injected 305,000 people with both shots of the COVID-19 vaccination — that’s around 8.5 percent of our population, more than any other U.S. state. Impressive.

As the COVID-19 vaccination program advances nationwide, there are plans to immunize children in the late spring or early summer. But what happens if one parent doesn’t want their child to receive the vaccine, and the other parent wants to give it a shot?

It’s complicated.

Connecticut’s incredible nurses have put shots in arms for only a few months, and there’s currently no legislation — on either the federal or state level — that clears up the confusion. But we can look at existing vaccination requirements and laws in Connecticut to predict the future.

Sit tight.

Why Do Connecticut Parents Disagree About Vaccines?

Even pre-pandemic, parents disagreed about the thorny topic of vaccinations. And there is a bundle of reasons why a parent wouldn’t want their child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine — even if the other parent advocates for immunization. There could be moral or religious obligations to the vaccination or specific health concerns.

In a study conducted last December, only 63 percent of people here in Connecticut said they wanted to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it’s available. Now it’s available, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of parents remain skeptical, disillusioned, or otherwise concerned about the state’s vaccination program. And that’s despite consistent reassurances from the CDC about COVID-19 vaccine safety, recommending you get a vaccine “as soon as you are eligible.” It couldn’t be more clear.

But when one parent disagrees with the other about this hot-button issue, things get messy. Whom, if anyone, has the final say? The parent with primary physical custody? The other parent? Or a judge?

Who Decides About Vaccinations After a Divorce or Separation in Connecticut?

Let’s explore the current state of play. Connecticut State’s Department of Public Health has a jumble of immunization laws and regulations that affect us, regardless of age. State laws regulate vaccination requirements for children in particular, and Connecticut requires the immunization of school-aged children at public and private schools against diseases like:

  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Polio
  • Tetanus
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Chickenpox
  • Influenza


(If you’re interested, check out a full list, with specific age requirements, here.)

As long as there are no health issues that prevent children from receiving these vaccines, parents have little say on the matter. It’s irrelevant whether parents agree or disagree on vaccinations.

There’s only one non-medical exemption from school immunizations in Connecticut — and that’s religion. Parents can fill out a form (or write a letter to their child’s school) and refuse vaccination because of religious beliefs. It’s been like this since 1959 when the Connecticut General Assembly legislated the religious exception. Despite recent calls to remove the exemption, nothing has changed for 62 years.

At the time of writing, there are no specific requirements for the immunization of school children against COVID-19 but expect a conversation about this topic in the coming weeks and months as our vaccination program trickles down to lower age groups. If schools administer the vaccine, there is not a lot either parent can do unless one parent declines the vaccine because of their religious beliefs or their child’s health.

So what happens if one parent refuses the COVID-19 vaccine because of religion, and the other parent disagrees with their decision?

How Will Connecticut Courts Resolve COVID-19 Vaccine Disputes?

Like any disagreement about a child’s health, a judge will probably make the final decision. Whether you want your child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or not, you probably don’t want a judge — someone you don’t know or have never met — to make such a life-changing decision for you. You’ll always have your child’s best interests at heart.

Then there are issues about going to court. Connecticut’s family courts already face delays because of the pandemic, and you might have to wait months to receive a case date. Plus, fighting your case in court is going to be expensive.

Whether it’s you or your ex-partner who doesn’t want your child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s critical to understand the complexities and legal consequences of going to court. Alternatives resolve your situation much quicker.

Why You Need a Connecticut Divorce Attorney

Working with a reputable, award-winning divorce lawyer in Connecticut like Rich Rochlin helps you resolve even the most complex co-parenting conflicts. Rochlin Law provides personal, passionate, and proven legal advice for parents who disagree on matters like healthcare, child custodychild supportproperty division, and more. Together, you can explore alternatives to court, such as conflict resolution and mediation.

Before You Go

Children have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut, and there’s a lot we don’t know about the vaccine rollout. But many parents have concerns about the vaccination, and divorced and separated parents will disagree on this topic. It’s likely a judge will have the final say when parents have differing opinions, but going to court is expensive and time-consuming.

Hiring a divorce attorney like Rich Rochlin helps you resolve this issue and protect the best interests of your child. Click here or call (860) 357-9158 to learn more.



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