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What if parents disagree about COVID-19 vaccine for their child?

Many parents are already at the end of their tether with the extra stress that COVID-19 has brought to their lives. For separated parents, however, the recent rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 years may add yet another layer of complexity if they are in conflict with the other parent as to whether their child should have it or not.

For a lot of separated parents, agreeing their child should have the COVID-19 vaccine is a simple process; they are able to communicate about any concerns either may have and about how they will get the vaccine administered – the when, where and by whom.

But for some parents, even the communication can be difficult. In one matter that I have seen, one parent simply declared “my child will not be vaccinated” – with the message being loud and clear that even trying to enter into communication about the issue would not be possible. In other matters I have seen, the sole dispute between the parents is (or has become) whether the child should have the vaccine – derailing what was otherwise a promising post-separation parenting relationship.

For parents in dispute the first step is dispute resolution – usually in the form of mediation. There the issues are likely to be between one parent saying it is best for the child to have the vaccine (in terms of participation in events/schooling, international travel and for the greater good of the family/community) as against the other parent saying that an apparent risk for this child outweighs those factors.  

It is to be hoped that dispute resolution resolves the issue because the cost of the Court process is far from ideal for either parent. Given the public safety issues, however, the Court has implemented a COVID list; designed to fast track Court resolution of matters involving COVID-19 disputes between parents should they need it.  

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