Now that it appears that the vaccines will be made available for most children, I have already had a client contact me to advise that while he would like his children to get vaccinated, his wife disagrees. He wants to know how to handle the situation.
Can I Just Take My Kids to Get Vaccinated if the Other Parent Disagrees?
The answer to this in most cases in Michigan is no, you should not do that. This is really a question regarding what is referred to as legal custody in Michigan. In our state, there are two types of custody; physical and legal. Physical custody is the classic type of custody that most people think of when they hear the term custody, essentially it refers to with whom the child will reside and be with physically. Legal custody on the other hand deals more with the constitutional right to parent and a parent's right to be involved with the decision making regarding the child's welfare, upbringing and religion. In almost every case in Michigan, the parents will share joint legal custody. It is very unusual for the court to grant one party sole legal custody.
Therefore, you should assume that you have joint legal custody. This means that you cannot do a variety of things with regards to the child without the approval of the other parent or the court. For instance, one parent should not unilaterally change the child's school or doctor, start psychological counseling or seek medical intervention (except in cases of emergency) without the consent of the other party or the approval of the court. If you do, then you could be subject to contempt of court proceedings and subject to fines, costs, potential loss of parenting time or legal custody or in more extreme cases, incarceration.
This means that before you take the children to get vaccinated against Covid, or other diseases, you should obtain the consent of the other parent first. If the other parent does not consent, then you will have to file a motion with the court and request that the court order that the child get the vaccination. The decision will then be up to the judge or potentially the court of appeals. In the case of traditional vaccines, the court has indicated that it will order the child receive the vaccination. While the vaccines for Covid do present a different case given that it is new, less time tested medical intervention and there are other objections that many have voiced to the vaccine, the court may come to a different decision, however it seems most likely, given past decisions, that the court will order the child to receive the vaccination.
This is a very complicated area of the law and really requires legal representation. Please do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a consultation.