Can my ex decide on my child’s COVID-19 vaccination status?

Regional Victoria’s recent case, Karcher v Lacoss, Judge O’Shannessy made orders providing for the father to have sole parental responsibility for COVID-19 vaccinations and other vaccinations of their child.

image

The questions raised at the interim defended hearing were whether the court should authorise the child being vaccinated against COVID-19 and, alternatively, whether one of the parents should hold the authority or parental authority for making decisions about COVID-19 vaccinations.

The case concerned an 11-year-old child, the applicant who is the Father and the Respondent who is the Mother. The Father sought orders to hold authority to have their child vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as other vaccinations in accordance with the national immunisation schedule program.

However, the Mother was against the child receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, asserting that there was a lack of research on potential side effects of the vaccine, as well as the alleged fact some children don’t fall very sick with COVID-19. Militated against the child receiving the vaccine.

The Father sought advice from the child’s treating general practitioner, who subsequently recommended that the child should be vaccinated against COVID-19. The father had further invited the Mother to speak with the practitioner regarding their recommendations. The Mother relied upon external publications and her own research to support her argument that there should be no vaccination.

Judge O’Shannessy discussed how this pandemic is a fast-moving matter, waiting for a defended hearing and the exchange of expert evidence may in turn cause one parent a veto. Hence, in a pandemic the conventional decision-making approach would not be suitable.

The Judge highlighted that they would not be placing the court in a position of a parent. However, as the parents cannot agree the court must order one parent to hold the parental authority to make the vaccination decision.

Judge O’Shannessy determined that the Father held the responsibility for the decision of the child’s vaccination, primarily because the child lives with the Father and because he had taken the time to consult with an expert, the General Practitioner. The Judge concluded at [85] that the doctor had “…greater expertise than me or any of the lawyers in the case in the area of vaccinations”.

If you require assistance with your parenting arrangements or want to discuss your options, please contact our Melbourne Family Law expert at Rowan Skinner & Associates Lawyers, LIV Specialist Family Lawyers, to arrange a no-obligation discussion about your parenting case.