An issue between parents can sometimes be vaccination of their children.

In this current Covid-19 pandemic, it may be that although a child has been vaccinated with all of the usual childhood vaccines as they fall due and owing, one of the child’s parents may be opposed to a child receiving the Covid-19 vaccination.

As the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) as amended works on the presumption that parents have equal shared parental responsibility in relation to the making of long term decisions regarding their children including but not limited to such important issues as education, religion, medical treatment and relocation then if parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding any of these issues then the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has the power to make these decisions having regard to the best interests of the children.

The issue of whether a child is or is not vaccinated can have an impact upon any agreements or orders which are in place for a child to spend time with the parent with whom they are not living with on a primary basis, particularly with State-by-State travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have created a National Covid-19 List to deal with issues that have arisen directly associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. If it is necessary to file an application for inclusion in the Covid-19 List, your application will generally be listed within 36 hours of filing it. The first return date is before a Registrar and only Orders by consent can be made on that day unless the matter is listed before a Judge.

Once your Application is before a Judge to determine the issues in dispute between the parents, then arguments may be made to the Court with respect to the detrimental impacts of the vaccination (if you are the parent opposing the vaccination of a child) but please be aware that the Court will require medical evidence supporting this adverse or potential adverse effect upon a child for vaccination as the Court puts weight on to the State and Federal Government policy and Government Medical Advices in support of the vaccination occurring.

If you do not have such medical evidence of risk supporting your stance for the child not to be vaccinated then please be aware that recent decisions by the Court show that the Court is likely to determine that it is in the child’s best interests to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and may, if one parent’s opposition is very strong, make an Order in favour of the parent who is supporting the child to be vaccinated giving that parent sole parental responsibility with respect to the issues of vaccination of the child in accordance with the National Immunisation Program or as recommended by the child’s treating medical practitioner: Pandell & Walburg (No 2) [2020] FCCA 1853 (13 July, 2020) and Makinen & Taube [2021] FCCA 1878 (16 August, 2021).

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on (07) 3372 2232 or email [email protected].