Vaccinations in general have historically been an area of much dispute and the COVID-19 vaccines are no different. In circumstances where parents cannot agree on whether or not their child should be vaccinated, what is the final outcome?
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia typically deal with disputes which fall under the scope of ‘parental responsibility’ and COVID-19 vaccinations are such a matter. If you are separated from your partner, there may be parenting orders in place for equal and shared parenting responsibility or for one parent to have sole responsibility, in which case no further action is required. If it is the former however, then you will have to reach an agreement with your partner about the vaccination status of your child as it is a major long-term decision relating to their health and this is a requirement of your parenting order. If you are unable to reach an agreement, then you will need to attend Alternative Dispute Resolution in a further attempt to reach a resolution. This also applies if you are in the process of separating because at this time, all decisions regarding the health of the child must be jointly agreed. Failing ADR, an application may be made to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to determine the vaccination of the child.
Once this application is made, the court has the power to make orders regarding the child’s vaccination, regardless of parental consent. The court will make its determination after considering all the facts and circumstances of the case along with the evidence presented, with the paramount consideration of the court being the best interests of the child. The court may grant one-parent sole responsibility for the child’s medical decisions, responsibility for all major long-term decisions regarding their wellbeing and care, or even make an order that the child must be vaccinated in accordance with the National Immunisation Program Schedule, issued by the Department of Health.
As such, it is important for you as a parent, to reach an agreement with your former partner, about your child’s vaccinations, health and general wellbeing, in their best interests. There are avenues available if an agreement is unable to be reached however an application to the court should be a last resort because the court’s decision is final, it is binding and it is out of your control.
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