Children’s vaccination allowed over father’s ‘veto’

A divorced mother could vaccinate her children for COVID-19 despite opposition from their father, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has decided.

The plaintiff mother filed a motion seeking the Family Court’s permission to vaccinate both of her children consistent with the recommendation of their pediatrician. Judge Sandra Lanni allowed that motion after consulting the factors outlined in Pettinato v. Pettinato, 582 A.2d 909 (R.I. 1990).

The defendant argued on appeal that the trial judge should have instantaneously ruled in his favor and that her failure to do so effectively “rewrote” the divorce judgment.

“Contrary to defendant’s argument that an objecting parent may ‘veto’ a decision regarding their children’s medical treatment, we conclude that neither the marital settlement agreement nor the final judgment requires the Family Court to defer to, and automatically rule in favor of, an objecting party,” Justice Melissa A. Long wrote for the unanimous court.

“The parents could not agree on a medical decision for their minor children; therefore, the decision was made for them by the Family Court pursuant to the authority vested therein by §8-10-3,” Long added.

The 16-page decision is Nagel v. Nagel.

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