COVID-19 vaccination and my children: What happens if my ex and I can’t agree?

Family Law

Written by MBA Lawyers Family Law Partner Joelene Seaton and Associate Aleena Mills

Does my child need a COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are available now in Australia for priority adult groups. Although children are not currently recommended to have the vaccine, you may be wondering what your obligations are for vaccinating your children.

It is not compulsory in Australia to vaccinate your child; however, laws and government policies exist that require children to be fully vaccinated, on a catch-up schedule or have a medical exemption in order to access childcare and a range of government benefits.

Separated parents may disagree on whether their children should receive a non-compulsory vaccination like for COVID-19 or flu.

What happens if my ex and I can’t agree?

If you disagree with your ex-partner about your children’s vaccinations, you must make an Application to the Court requesting sole parental responsibility in relation to that discrete issue, or, simply an Order that the children be vaccinated.

Disputes regarding children’s vaccinations can be dealt with in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia. When these Courts are asked to make decisions about children being vaccinated, they are obligated to consider the child’s best interests first and foremost.

The Court will require evidence in relation to each individual child as to their specific health circumstances, the benefits to the child in receiving vaccinations versus not, and any medical risks associated with that particular child being immunised.

Immunisation of children is not historically a common legal dispute, given the Courts tend to consider immunisation to be in the child’s best interests based on expert medical evidence. However, a Court can make Orders prohibiting a child’s vaccination if it is satisfied that there are medical risks associated for that particular child. There is no presumption for or against vaccination.

What will happen if we go to court about a COVID-19 vaccine?

The Federal Circuit Court has developed a National COVID-19 list in response to the pandemic. Parents who disagree as to their children receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, if and when it is recommended, they may apply to have their matter dealt with on an urgent basis in this list.

Only time will tell how the Court will deal with this particular vaccination, as the COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been tested in family law matters. The Court will consider each case on its particular facts and circumstances, especially the children’s needs subject of the dispute.

If you need help with a dispute over whether your child should receive any vaccination, or any other parenting dispute, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our highly skilled family lawyers on 07 5539 9688 or by filling out a contact form.

Read more about our MBA Lawyers family law service.

Read article