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The current topic of COVID-19 vaccinations has polarised many co-parents who are struggling to reach an agreement.

Most parents who are separated or divorced and sharing parental responsibilities have an equal say when it comes to their child’s medical issues. This is unless there is a Court Order for sole parental responsibility. The following tips can help you find a way forward if you are disagreeing with your co-parent about vaccination.

How can we reach agreement?

The first step is to communicate with the other parent to try and reach an amicable agreement.

The best interests of the child must be at the forefront of any negotiations. This focus can sometimes help negotiations and facilitate a resolution between parents.

It is common that the co-parents reach a ‘stalemate’, however, as both parties consider they are acting in the child’s best interests. It may be helpful to receive advice from a medical specialist such as the child’s General Practitioner as to whether it is recommended that the child be vaccinated.

Negotiations can be complemented by mediation or other Family Dispute Resolution services to help the co-parents reach an agreement.

What if we can’t reach an agreement?

If an agreement cannot be reached between the co-parents, it may be necessary for proceedings to be issued in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. It may not be easy or quick to get a Court case underway, and there are certain pre-action procedures required by the Court before proceedings can be issued. It is therefore important you speak with a lawyer about your specific situation so you are aware of the available options to best resolve your dispute.

Prior to issuing, the co-parents will need to consider the consequences that proceedings may have on their relationship moving forward, and also the financial cost involved.

Who has the final say?

If proceedings are issued and the co-parents still cannot reach an agreement by consent, the decision will be left in the Court’s hand. Recent cases have confirmed that vaccinations are able to be ordered by the Court. The Court’s decision will come down to the best interests of the child and will therefore be determined on a case-by-case basis.

It is usual for the Court to make orders consistent with the National Immunisation Program Schedule or the advice of a medical specialist, unless the child has underlying health concerns which may be relevant to any potential side effects of the vaccination.

How can we help?

During the stressful time of coping with the pandemic, it can feel overwhelming if you are faced with a dispute with your co-parent about vaccination. Mellor Olsson are here to help and have an experienced family law team who can help you negotiate with your co-parent.