When a couple gets divorced or parents that are never married but break up, their child custody agreement dictates who has decision-making authority for things such as education and medical issues. The parents need to follow the terms of their agreement or court may modify it. Of current importance, is a parent’s decision to vaccinate their child(ren), especially as we all face COVID.

Recently, in March 2022, the New York State Second Department Appellate Division Court in the case of Matter of Soper v. Soper, changed the medical decision-making of a family’s custody order.

In this case, both parents had joint legal custody and medical decision-making was agreed upon to be deferred to the children’s pediatrician.  The mother did not want the children vaccinated and obtained medical care for the children from a pediatrician not named in their custody agreement.  The father sought to obtain sole decision-making authority based on his ex-wife’s actions which were going to keep their youngest child out of school because the child was not up to date on her required vaccinations. The court ruled in favor of the father, citing a modification was necessary to ensure the best interest and welfare of the child.

So, what does this mean for parents?  First, adhere to your custody agreement. It avoids lengthy battles and stress for the entire family.

Second, the courts are going to look out for the child or children’s safety and welfare.  In this case, the child was not going to be allowed to attend school until proof of vaccination was provided to the school district.

This ruling could open doors down the road for many parents who do not agree on vaccinations, including ones that are not mandated.

It’s always best to speak with your attorney in a situation like this for guidance.