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Family Dispute Lawyer: Covid-19 Vaccines, Parenting Plans and the Best Interests of the Child

A family dispute lawyer deals with many issues, but few are as challenging as parenting issues. Parents want the best for their children, but often disagree about what is “best”.

When parents decide to divorce, one of the first concerns is to create a Parenting Agreement. Parenting Agreements lay out how you will parent your children separately, including provisions for:

  • Living arrangements and parenting time
  • Decision-making responsibility (including medical decisions)
  • Vacations and holidays
  • Your parenting philosophy

A key element of a parenting agreement is also how you will resolve parenting disputes and make changes to the parenting agreement. Decisions in these disputes are weighed in the “best interests of the child.”

But life is always changing, and no document can anticipate every twist and curve that comes your way. The “best interests of the child” is not always black and white.

Some parenting disputes cannot be resolved through mediation or negotiations. In these cases, the disputes need to be resolved with the help of a family dispute lawyer in court. An issue related to parenting that Courts have dealt with, particularly these past few years in COVID-19, has been whether or not the parties’ children should be vaccinated.

Medical Decisions and the Covid-19 Vaccine

In early February 2023 the Court of Appeal for Ontario heard J.N. v. C.G., 2023 ONCA 77, a case where two parents disagreed about the best interests of the child when it came to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The parents had been married for seven years prior to separation. They had three children together. The oldest lived with the father, and the youngest two (now aged 10 and 12) lived with the mother. The father wished to get decision-making authority for the COVID-19 vaccine for the two youngest children. The mother was opposed to the vaccination.

In the initial case at the Superior Court of Justice in February 2022, both parents presented evidence supporting their argument. The father primarily relied on information from Health Canada and other governmental and official medical sources, while the mother presented information from many other sources on the Internet. The two children expressed that they did not wish to be vaccinated. The court refused the father’s arguments that the children should be vaccinated and maintained the mother’s decision-making responsibility.

The father appealed, and the original decision was overturned, granting the father decision-making responsibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. The key elements of the decision relied on past cases establishing the reliability of Internet information and Health Canada approval for the vaccine.

Unrealistic to Relitigate Science of Vaccination

Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm Associate Emma Katz provided insight into this important ruling for Law360 Canada (formerly The Lawyer’s Daily) .

Katz drew attention to a key paragraph in the decision: “it is simply unrealistic to expect parties to relitigate the science of vaccination, and legitimacy of public health recommendations, every time there is a disagreement over vaccination.”. She noted the court was particularly mindful of some of the information sources presented, and it decided to give deference to public health guidelines.

The key takeaway? When Health Canada approves a vaccination, the onus is on the parent who objects to the vaccination to prove why they should not receive it.

The Best Interests of the Child is Not Always Clear

Like most parents, both the mother and the father in this case sought to protect their children. Each believed strongly in their position and presented evidence to support their rationale.

In these circumstances, an expert family dispute lawyer can provide you with information on previous decisions to guide your expectations. Whether it’s about medical decisions, living arrangements, or education, a family dispute lawyer can rely on their expertise and experience to build creative legal arguments to help you achieve an optimal outcome in your case.

When You Need a Family Dispute Lawyer

When you need a family dispute lawyer, reach out to the team of family lawyers at the Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm. With decades of experience in family law, we understand the system, and can guide you through your case with compassion and determination. Family law matters touch on your core values and beliefs. We will work with you to present your case skillfully and professionally, helping you achieve the best outcome for your family. Contact us today to consult on your family law matter.

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