Separated parents may have disagreements when it comes to vaccinating their children.
Figuring out how to co-parent with your previous partner can sometimes feel like hitting a nail in with a glass hammer.
It’s a full-time job, even when both parents generally agree.
If there is a disagreement of some sort, your job becomes exponentially more difficult.
When it comes to making decisions about the health and well-being of children, you may have differing views on what is best for the children.
The long-held practice of vaccinating children has recently been scrutinised by a marginal amount of Australians.
Family Law and Vaccinations
Childhood vaccines, particularly the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine, have been a hot-button topic in recent years.
It has been two decades since an infamous study was released that linked vaccines to autism.
A large majority of Australians strongly support vaccines, particularly for school-aged children.
In NSW, the law requires children without a medical exemption to be vaccinated, or undergoing an approved catch-up program, prior to being enrolled in childcare centres.
To be considered up-to-date for the purpose of NSW childcare enrolment law, a child must be vaccinated according to the per-age NSW Immunisation Schedule.
The exemption is if you have a certified religious or conscientious objection to vaccination after you have attended counselling with an authorised immunisation provider on the advantages and benefits of vaccination.
The government has released a relatively new family law nicknamed the “No Jab, No Pay” law.
This essentially denies child-care benefits and rebates for the care of unvaccinated children.
Conscientious objection and vaccination objection on non-medical grounds is not considered an exemption from immunisation requirements.
Australian Family Law Case: Duke-Randall & Randall 2014 FamCa126
This Family Court of Australia case involved a divorced couple with opposing views on vaccination.
The father wanted the children to be vaccinated.
The mother opposed the children being vaccinated.
The mother’s objections were based on the risks involved with vaccination.
The father wanted the children immunised for their health benefit and so that they didn’t have limited opportunities.
An immunisation specialist found that the children were not at a greater risk of vaccine-related harm than normal.
The court deemed this evidence to be determinative.
The court ruled that the father could have his children vaccinated.
Co-Parenting Dispute In Family Law
So, what should you do when you and your previous partner disagree?
For starters, do your research.
Get your stats, facts and medical papers ready.
A parenting plan is a useful way to set out the details of your co-parenting relationship.
To create one, you and your previous partner should talk about your rights and responsibilities with regard to your child and how you will resolve any disputes if they arise.
You may be able to have a system where you sort it out alone or have an intermediary decision maker.
If this doesn’t work, you can get help from a family dispute resolution practitioner, mediator or your family lawyer.
As with any parenting decision, open and honest communication is the best way to find a solution.
If you are considering consent orders or already have orders in place, this is exactly the type of issue that should be included.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.