New Vaccination Laws Could Put Stress on Families and Courts

The new “no jab, no play” laws might bring more problems than many advocates are aware of. Where separated and divorced parents are concerned, differing opinions could lead to undue pressure. This in turn could place additional stress on the family court system.

The Victorian Government has been pushing to bring in legislation that would effectively force parents to immunise their children, if they want to take advantage of childcare facilities, as well as kindergartens. Laws such as this have been passed in the US, as with California. Parents in the area are required to have their children immunised, unless they have a legitimate medical reason not to do so. This does not take into consideration personal beliefs on the topic, and has been a highly controversial law.

The Abbott Government is looking to deny payments from the Family Tax Benefit for any parents who refuse to have their children immunised. This stands to bring a whole new series of problems, as far as divorced or separated parents are concerned. A problem that many people seemingly do not see, is that the situation will compel separated and divorced parents to take the matter to court, where they do not see eye-to-eye on the topic. And many separated parents really do not need another reason to place more strain on the family court system.

This debate was largely sparked by when the Lancet, a British medical publication, released a paper written by Doctor Andrew Wakefield. In his study, he found reasons to believe that the vaccine for the mumps, measles, and rubella could be unsafe. Since then, the Lancet has retracted the study, and further study has failed to find any concrete links between autism and vaccination. However, a large percentage of the world’s population still feels that the science is not clear enough to warrant forced immunisation.

Where this all becomes a problem in family law, is that these vaccines are not strictly required. Australian medical law categorises them as special medical procedures, meaning that it is still up to parents whether they want to have their children immunised. For parents who are no longer together, there is often already plenty of disagreement. The Australian Government seeks to, seemingly unwittingly, place additional pressure on both parents and the court system, by pushing the matter of vaccination.

Consider where a child is living with one parent most of the time, and this parent wants the child immunised. They might believe that it is the right thing to do, and they could also want to be sure that they continue receiving the Family Tax Benefit. Now, what happens when the other parent is strongly against vaccinations, and would do anything to prevent their child being vaccinated? In some situations, a spiteful parent might wish to stop financial assistance to the primary care-giver, even if they do not feel passionately about vaccinations.

In situations like the one detailed above, a parent who wishes to comply with government regulations, and have their child immunised, will be forced to go through a stressful and expensive process of getting a court order. While the primary care-giving parent wants to follow legislations, they could still lose all benefits by having a child who is not vaccinated. Forcing laws that relate to children, by threatening the loss of financial relief or even child care benefits, puts pressure on parents and courts.

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