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Here's what could happen if divorced parents disagree on whether their kid should get a COVID-19 vaccine

If divorced parents don’t agree about whether their child should be vaccinated, it could become a legal issue that ends up in court.

AUSTIN, Texas — After an FDA advisory panel endorsed Pfizer’s vaccine for kids 5 to 11, the option of getting a child vaccinated is becoming a bigger decision for parents. And not all divorced parents may agree.

So which parent gets to make the decision?

The first place to start is in the divorce decree, according to Marie McGrath, managing attorney at Austin’s Modern Family Law. Vaccination decisions go to the parent who has the right to make decisions about a child’s invasive medical procedures, she said.

But if the right is jointly shared by both parents, assuming they are named as joint managing conservators in the decree, and they disagree about vaccination, the decision could be made by a tiebreaker. In this case, that could be the child’s pediatrician, McGrath said.

The issue gets more complicated though, especially when a doctor may choose not to be the tiebreaker. That means the decision could end up in a judge’s hands, McGrath said.

“If you're going to court and you just want to fight because you just politically don't agree with this issue and you don't agree with the vaccination, but you haven't been intimately involved in the child's decision-making concerning medical issues, then you're probably going to be less successful, in my opinion,” McGrath said.

If the issue does end up in court, the timing could be an added problem. It could take weeks before a judge hears the case, which would delay the time before a kid can get the shot.

“If you want to go to court and argue about it, you better make sure you've been involved in that child's life and been making those types of decisions for the court to consider your opinion about what needs to be done with this child,” McGrath said. “The standard is what's [in] the best interest of the child, not the parents – not who can argue with who, who makes the other one look bad. And it's not a political statement. It's about the health of the child.”

McGrath said if you’re a parent who doesn’t want your kid vaccinated, calling their pediatrician’s office to let them know would be one way to stop it from happening, at least preliminarily.

But if you’re pushing for your child to get the shot, McGrath said to plan to show up to court with science and experts to make the case that it’s in the best interest of your child.

WATCH: Austin pediatrician answers questions about COVID-19 vaccine for kids

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