COVID Vaccine for Kids: When Parents Disagree

03-11-2021    |    Resource   |   Simone Thomas

With the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine already being administered to children over 12 years of age, and an application for use in children over 5 years of age under consideration by the regulators, what if separated parents cannot agree over whether to vaccinate their child?


Disputes Over COVID Vaccination

In general, separated parents are considered to have equal say in what vaccinations or medical treatment a child should receive.  If parents can’t agree, the Court will consider the case and decide whether the vaccination or treatment should go ahead, having regard to the Family Law Act and with the best interests of the child being the paramount consideration.

The Lamrocks Family Law team has received a number of enquiries from parents wanting to know what their rights are in relation to COVID vaccinations and their children.  Whilst we are not aware of a case of this nature being decided by the Court yet, we have been able to resolve any disputes between parents quickly and effectively through negotiation and correspondence without having to resort to Court action.


The COVID List

The COVID-19 pandemic has in fact seen several new issues arise for separated parents in addition to disagreements over whether to vaccinate their child, including the question of border restrictions if parents live in different states.

Realising that COVID-related disputes could be urgent in nature, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has established a “COVID List” to deal specifically with urgent family law disputes arising out of the pandemic.


What Types of Disputes Will be Covered?

The COVID List offers a streamlined process that deals with urgent matters within three days – which is a much quicker turnaround than a normal Court application that can take four to six weeks.

To be eligible for inclusion on the COVID-List, there are a number of criteria that must be met including:

  1. The application has been filed as a direct result of, or if indirect, has a significant connection to, the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. The matter is urgent or of a priority nature.
  3. If safe to do so, you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the issue but you were unsuccessful.
  4. The matter can be dealt with using electronic means (e.g. over the telephone or via a video link).

Some of the examples listed on the Court website as being suitable matters for the COVID-List include:

  • Vaccinations: for instance, when there is a dispute about a child being vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Medical issues: such as when the parties cannot fulfil their parenting obligations due to a party and/or child testing positive for COVID-19, or medical complications from having contracted COVID-19, or due to concerns about infection or quarantine requirements.
  • Travel arrangements or border restrictions: if the parties live in different states or territories and there are difficulties or anticipated difficulties with the child travelling between the parties' residences, including due to any Government restrictions, or a party is planning international travel.
  • Supervised contact: if current parenting arrangements include supervised contact and the contact centre is closed, or the supervisor is unable to perform their role due to COVID restrictions.


What Should You Do?

If you are having difficulties meeting your parenting obligations due to COVID regulations, or you are in a dispute with your former partner over vaccinating your children against COVID, speak to one of our experienced family lawyers on ph 02 4731 5688.  In most cases, the right advice from a lawyer early in the dispute can resolve the matter quickly and effectively without having to refer the matter to the Court.


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