Once again this week, it’s family solicitor Dan Knox.
My partner and I separated three years ago and we share custody of our two children, Max (14) and Lucy (9).
For the most part, we have settled into a good routine and my ex and I rarely disagree over the arrangements for the children, however we do however have completely different positions relating to the potential vaccination of the children. I would like the kids to be fully vaccinated against Covid and am happy for them to receive vaccinations, my ex is adamant that they shouldn’t be vaccinated and believes that the covid vaccine is some way for the government to control the population.
I understand that both parents should have a say in decisions such as these about the children but when it is something as important as this, is there any way that one person can override the other?
Thank you for getting in touch.
This is unfortunately a common issue that many separated parents are facing: with children aged 12 and over now eligible for the vaccine, it can be difficult for parents with differing views to reach an agreed position.
Firstly, we would stress that any decisions about a child’s medical care should involve any parent who has parental responsibility for that child, and in the first instance talking with your ex-partner in a calm and rational manner about your differences should always be encouraged.
In the event that an agreeable resolution cannot be reached, you could then consider mediation as a method of discussing the issues with an independent, trained third party who may assist communications. If these discussions do break down, as a last resort and ideally with the support of a solicitor, either party can make an application to the Court.
There are two types of orders that a parent could apply for that would be applicable in this situation:
A Specific Issue Order
- An Order of the Court telling a person to do a particular act / giving permission for a specific act to take place.
A Prohibited Steps Order
- An Order of the Court prohibiting a person from doing a particular act – in this case, for example from vaccinating the children without the consent of both parents.
Whilst at the time of writing, there is no case law to show how the court will decide on matters relating to the COVID-19 vaccine and children, in any case, the court will analyse the facts of the specific matter assessing the application against what is known as the child ‘welfare checklist’, which takes into account the child’s wishes and feelings (subject to their age and level of understanding), the child’s needs, the effect on the child and the harm posed to the child, to name a few.
The court has historically made determinations on immunisations of a child and have determined that a child who had already received all of the usual vaccinations and was overdue to receive three further immunisations should receive these on the basis that it was in the child’s best interests.
Notably, the court made a point to state that in making its determination, it was not to be taken as commentary on whether immunisations or vaccines were positive or negative.
Instead, the court determined the matter on the facts particular to that specific child and this will continue to be the case.
Unfortunately, determinations of this nature are not an exact science. The facts of the matter will be critical as to what the final decision of the court may be. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you in more detail, and would be happy to meet with you face to face or over a social media platform to discuss the specifics with you in more detail in a one to one consultation.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
If you need advice about your separation, or any other legal issue, you can contact Dan or one of our other trusted legal advisors here at Hill and Company by telephone on 0161 928 3201.