I am the legal guardian of my grandchildren. I want them to get the COVID vaccine – but their mother, my daughter, doesn’t want them to be vaccinated. Can I take them to get vaccinated?
Families across the country are deciding how to protect their minor children from the COVID variants. The vaccine is now available to children 12 and older and is becoming more widely available for children under 12, and often parents disagree on how best to protect their children. In some cases, the parents are divorced and co-parenting, or one parent has legal custody and the ability to make all medical decisions. And in some situations like yours, a person may have a court order in place to have temporary legal guardianship of a minor child, such as a grandparent.
Guardianship is a legal term for the court-authorized right to make decisions for someone else. A guardianship can be of the person or of the estate. A guardianship of the person has broad power to make decisions for the child. This type of guardianship can consent to medical treatment.
When it comes to children there are three types of guardianship that are usually used. “Plenary Guardian” where a judge appoints a person to make all decisions for a child. A “Standby Guardian” where a person will take over guardianship when a parent or legal guardian can no longer care for a child. And a “Short-term Guardian” that provides limited control of the child.
It sounds like you have stepped in to care for your grandchildren because their parents are unable to, or chose not to. When you become the legal plenary guardian of your grandchildren in Illinois, that means that you are legally entitled to make all decisions regarding their well-being and care, including medical decisions, unless the court has ruled otherwise.
In this instance, it sounds like you do have the right to get your grandchildren vaccinated for their protection and yours. Their mother does not have legal custody nor the right to make medical decisions for children who are not in her custody.
However, even though you are their court-appointed legal guardian, their mother does have rights because your guardianship is presumed to be temporary, even if there is no end date. If you and the children’s mother cannot come to an agreement, their mother may go to court to prevent them from being vaccinated. That does not mean she will win her case: but she can consult a lawyer and ask the courts to respect her medical wishes. The courts will determine if they will hear her case, or if they will leave the decision to you as the legal guardian.
In this case, I would encourage the grandparent and mother to meet with a trusted doctor or another knowledgeable advisor to try and negotiate what is in the best interest of the children. If the grandparents and parents cannot come to an agreement, an Illinois guardianship attorney can advise you on how to protect your rights, and your grandchildren.
If you are a grandparent who wants legal guardianship to take care of your minor grandchild, contact the experienced guardianship attorneys at Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835. We provide legal services in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, and Will counties.