The issue of vaccines and vaccinating a child during COVID-19 requires a lot attention during this pandemic given some number of parents oppose vaccinations, generally. Vaccinating a child has historically been held to fall under the umbrella of custodial decisions to be made by a parent, as it is a choice that directly goes towards the medical well-being of a child. Due to this, in cases where a party has been granted an order for sole custody, typically such decisions related to the health and wellbeing of the child would specifically be made by that party. The question of whether a parent is willing to follow the advice of a child’s doctor in matters of healthcare, such as complying with requests to vaccinate a child, has always played a role in decisions related to custody. For example, generally speaking, a parent who has historically ignored the advice of a child’s doctor to the detriment of a child’s health, will likely be viewed less favorably by the courts than a parent who has complied with medical recommendations by professionals. In the context of COVID-19, this concept has come to the forefront of the law, as medical decisions and openness to vaccinations has become all the more important in the circumstances of a global pandemic.
Parents’ Preferences in Relation to Vaccination and Parenting Regimes
The issue of vaccines and vaccinating a child during COVID-19 requires a lot attention during this pandemic given some number of parents oppose vaccinations, generally. In the midst of this global pandemic, there have been ongoing efforts throughout the medical community on a global scale to develop a safe and reliable vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. While individuals across the world await the development and production of this vaccine, the courts have already begun to contemplate the implications that these scientific developments will have in relation to ongoing custody disputes and family law matters. In the recent case of Tarkowski v. Lemieux, 2020 ONCJ 280, a mother and father were both seeking sole custody of their daughter, and the question of how either party would respond to the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 was investigated, as a critical aspect of the Honourable Justice Jones’s decision. In this case, the child had since the separation of the parties primarily resided with her mother, and the general circumstances appeared to favor her in terms of sole custody of the child. The Honourable Justice Jones had one critical concern related to the mother, which was that she had historically been opposed to vaccination of the child throughout her life. The implications and concerns raised in relation to this were heavily considered in relation to the potential vaccine for COVID-19 currently in development, and the best Interests of the child. In a unique response to this issue, the Honourable Justice Jones ordered that the mother have sole custody of the child, but explicitly gave the father the right to overrule the decision making power of the mother if she were to oppose vaccination In the future, which was found to be in the best interest of the child.
At the present time, our firm is working with both existing and potential new clients to ensure that parents are able to continue to be engaged in decision-making related to their children in a way that ensures their health and safety during the current climate of COVID-19. Our firm is here to assist you in regards to all of your needs, and can assist you in any negotiations you may need to resolve within your custody and family law disputes. Please call one of our Child Custody Lawyers Toronto for a consultation related to your matters.
Tarkowski v. Lemieux, 2020 ONCJ 280 (CanLII)
By Adam Jaffer, Associate Lawyer at Separy Law PC