Since the inception of COVID, the Courts have been involved in many co-parenting disputes that are unique to the pandemic. Ever since the COVID vaccine has been released, many parents have differing views as to whether or not their child should be vaccinated. Most recently, Hon. Stacy Bennett, A.J.S.C. of the Nassau County Supreme Court rendered a decision which granted a father’s application for a change in custody on the issue of medical decision making. Specifically, the father wanted limited decision making to have his child receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which the mother was against.
In S.M. v. E.M., 2022 NYLJ LEXIS 722 (Sup. Ct., Nassau Cty. 2022), the parties Stipulation and Judgment provided for joint legal custody and joint decision making. However, their differing of opinions regarding the COVID vaccine could not be agreed upon, so it was left to the Court decide. At the trial, the parents did not produce expert medical testimony, but the parties stipulated that the children’s pediatrician recommended that all three children receive the vaccination. Prior to the COVID vaccine, all three children always received their necessary vaccinations. The Court did not focus on the efficacy of the vaccine, but rather the children’s best interests. Ultimately, the Court declined to award full medical decision making to either party but based on the testimony and evidence the father was awarded medical decision-making authority solely and specifically regarding vaccinations.