What Happens When Separated Parents Don’t Agree On Vaccinating Their Children

What Happens When Separated Parents Don’t Agree On Vaccinating Their Children

With more pressure to get children in Ontario vaccinated, this presents a potential conflict for separated parents. If one disagrees with having their child vaccinated against COVID-19, this becomes a matter of family law if it cannot be resolved privately.

Why some parents are against vaccinations is due to the risks involved, however small, and children not necessarily requiring vaccines in the same way that older members of the population do. This is precisely why when vaccinations first became available, children were not in consideration for a jab. There were a lot of reasons at the time and a common understanding of why not to vaccinate your child. As we’ve continued to gather evidence around these vaccinations and have seen different strains of COVID-19 be transferred in schools, the government’s declared the benefits of vaccines for kids outweighing the risks.

What To Do If Separated Parents Disagree On Vaccines

While most separated parents can negotiate and resolve a lot of conflicts without involving divorce lawyers, understandably vaccines are a major issue for a lot of people. It’s difficult to offer a compromise on getting a child vaccinated for COVID-19 when they’re either vaccinated or they’re not. It’s one or the other.

If a parent has sole custody, they can choose to vaccinate their child. The other parent can disagree, however, and bring this to court. For parents with joint custody, the court may be the only way to arrive at a decision if trying to work it out between the separated parties has failed.

Court Decisions in Ontario Dealing With Separated Parents And Vaccines

Should a conflict between separated parents on vaccines for a child go to courts, the legal parameters that are applied are what is in the best interests of the child. In the past, similar court cases have been treated on a case-by-case basis.

The case of C.M.G. v. D.W.S. 2015 ONSC 2201 involved a pre-pandemic vaccine issue. A father wanted his child vaccinated prior to an overseas trip whereas the mother did not. The courts decided it was in the best interests of the child to get vaccinated and used Canada’s public health guidelines that are in favour of vaccinations for children in most cases as well as expert testimony provided by the father.

There is also Tarkowski v. Lemieux, 2020 ONCJ 280 where the father wanted the sole authority to decide to vaccinate his child against COVID-19. At the time, the vaccine was not available to children, however, he wanted permission that if it became available, the father would be permitted to overrule the mother’s wishes. The courts ruled, again, in favour of vaccinating the child, citing the mother’s lack of trust in Western medicine, past refusals and delays in getting routine vaccinations, and the low risk of adverse reactions among children to the COVID-19 vaccine.

In cases like these and dissimilar relating to separated parents disagreeing on a health issue, consistently the courts rule in accordance with public health guidelines. That is unless a party presents evidence suggesting vaccination is not in a child’s best interest. For example, a child could have an underlying condition where they would be more at risk of taking a vaccine. Alternatively, if a child has had adverse reactions to vaccines provided to them in the past. Assuming there was enough evidence to suggest the vaccine was not recommended for a specific type of condition or for a specific child, a separated parent may have an argument.

When to Consult A Lawyer On COVID-19 Vaccinations For Children

If you are a separated parent and you disagree on whether to vaccinate your child against COVID-19, speak to a family law lawyer. They can offer legal advice after listening to your unique circumstances and ultimately can help answer your questions about taking separated parents’ conflicts with vaccinations to court.