Family Law

To Vaccinate or not to Vaccinate?

Vaccinating Kids
What does the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia say about vaccinating kids from families with different opinions?

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia decide on vaccinating kids based on the child’s best interests when parents have differing views. They prioritise the child’s well-being, considering medical evidence and often engaging independent experts for guidance.

One of the matters in the Covington & Covington case involves deciding if a child should get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The mother opposed vaccination while the father supported it. During the trial’s fourth day, both sides consented to orders for the child to reside with the mother, visit the father, and undergo vaccination.

A consultant pediatrician and infectious disease physician prepared a report for the court that was admitted into evidence at the trial. The court noted that ‘the mother’s position concerning vaccination is not child-focused, and is not in the best interest of the child. It is not based on evidence, and on the evidence… [by not having the child vaccinated] it may expose the child to harm.’

Covington & Covington [2021] FamCA 1064

Before the orders were finalised, the mother contacted the court to withdraw her consent for the child’s vaccination. She alleged she was pressured into agreeing.

The Case continues…

The court referenced Melville v Melville (No 3) (2020) 61 Fam LR 280, emphasising that court-declared orders retain validity even without formal entry into the computer system. Consequently, the earlier orders stayed effective, preventing the mother from easily retracting her consent.

The father sought changes in the consent orders to exclude the mother if she couldn’t manage her fears and to support the vaccination independently. The court approved the modification to the orders.

Covington & Covington (No. 2) [2021] FamCA 24

The mother filed an additional request in the case to halt the orders. Her application was denied, the Court then altered the orders. This stopped the mother from contacting medical personnel involved in the child’s vaccination.

Covington & Covington (No. 3) [2021] FamCA 198

Prior to the initial vaccination appointment, the mother failed to comply with the father’s scheduled time outlined in the Orders. Consequently, the father promptly submitted an application to enforce the court’s orders for the child’s vaccination. In response, the court directed the child to reside with the father for four months until the scheduled vaccinations concluded.

The case outlined above is an overview only and should not be considered as legal advice. 

If there are any matters that you would like advice on, please contact the De Saxe O’Neill office on 02 9948 3820.


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