What To Do When Parents Disagree On Children’s Vaccine

Many parents now find that they disagree on vaccines for their children, how can this problem be solved? Let’s investigate:

The Covid-19 pandemic has created many challenges for parents, including those who are separated. With children in Australia aged between 5 and 11 years old being able to receive a vaccine from 10 January 2022, the question arises as to what occurs when a child’s parents disagree about whether their child should receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Importantly, given that the school year is commencing shortly and/or appointments may have already be booked, it may be imperative to have this issue dealt with in an expedient manner.

Every parent has ‘parental responsibility’ for a child, unless a Court Order has been made for sole parental responsibility. Parental responsibility does not relate to care arrangements but rather, long-term decision making relating to a child. This includes important medical decisions.

In most family law issues, it is necessary for parties to attempt to reach a resolution before commencing court proceedings. This may not however be practical in some instances, including where a child is at risk or where it is a matter of urgency.

An Application can be made to the court to decide whether the child in question should receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has implemented a specialised Covid-19 list to deal specifically with urgent issues associated with the pandemic. The question of whether a child should be vaccinated, may qualify to heard in this list.

Specific documents will need to be filed with the court setting out the reasons why a child should or should not  be vaccinated. There is no specific reasons associated with the pandemic that the court will consider. Rather, a Judge will ascertain whether it is a child’s best interests to receive the vaccine. Generalised issues which a court considers in ascertaining what is in a child’s best interests are outlined in s60CC of the Family Law Act 1975. Whilst Covid-19 is an unprecedented occurrence, the court has often been required to make decisions regarding immunisations, whether this be for travel reasons or general health. As demonstrated in the case of Kingsford and Kingsford [2012] FamCA 889, the risks and benefits of being immunised is relevant.

All cases are different. Some relevant issues may include the child’s current health, particularly if they immunocompromised, their allergies, the child’s views (depending on maturity level), whether a household member is a frontline worker, and religious and cultural views. Case law indicates that it is useful to provide medical evidence to the court. The above are only some examples of possible relevant issues and are not exhaustive.

This is a complicated area of law. Should you require advice specific to your circumstances we suggest that you contact our lawyers so that we can provide you with advice. You can contact us at:

Glezer Lanteri & Associates Pty Ltd
Level 2
139 Collins Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia

Phone: (03) 9658 7700

*Note: the above is not legal advice. It is general information. Please contact our team of family lawyers for advice specific to your needs.