Do I need to consult my former partner if I want to vaccinate our children?

The short answer is yes. The Family Law Act presumes, in the first instance, that parents have equal shared parental responsibility for significant decisions about their children. Parental responsibility deals with issues including education, religious and cultural issues, and health.

Where parents cannot agree, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) has the power to make decisions about your child’s health based on the best interests of the child¹.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a National COVID-19 list was created for specific issues for parties dealing with Family Law matters. The FCFCOA will hear arguments regarding vaccination and considers those matters on a case-by-case basis. Where arguments have been made about the detrimental impacts of vaccination, the Court has considered what the adverse effect is on the particular child/ren and will look closely at expert medical evidence, together with State and Federal government health policy.

In 2021 the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (as it then was), ordered parental responsibility for one parent to deal solely with the issue of vaccinations. Vaccinations were to take place in accordance with the National Immunisation Program, or as recommended by the children’s treating General Practitioner. Both parents otherwise retained shared parental responsibility about all other matters concerning their children². In a separate case earlier in 2021 arguments were unsuccessfully made to the High Court of Australia against vaccination where parents had agreed at an earlier time, to vaccinate their child³.

In 2011 and well prior to the COVID pandemic, the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia considered a vaccination argument and allowed parents to provide further evidence of competing medical professionals, to consider the possible risk to the child, of an adverse reaction to vaccination4.

If a dispute arises about vaccination/immunization, it is important to have appropriately qualified medical advice supporting your concerns about how the risks or benefits of vaccination will impact your child. The Court has the power to make Orders for vaccination/immunisation and will do so after careful consideration of the risks and benefits to your child.

Should you have any questions arising from this article please contact us.

1.Family Law Act 1975 Ss65, 67ZC
2. Makinen & Taube [2021] FCCA 1878
3. Covington & Covington [2021] FamCAFC 52, Covington & Covington [2020] FamCA1064
4. Mains & Redden [2011] FamCAFF 184

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