European regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12 to 15-years-old and UK roll-out announcement, could lead to a spike in disputes between separated parents with equal care responsibilities.
Legal experts across the UK have reported an increase in child disputes during the pandemic, due to disagreements between parents about movement between households as well as child payments and holiday travel. With the vaccine roll-out for children in the not too distant future, legal teams are braced for an influx in disputes between parents who cannot agree on whether to vaccinate their children, as well as disagreements between separated families about holiday arrangements.
“Issues around vaccinating children isn’t new,” explains Nikki Aston, legal director and family law expert at Shakespeare Martineau.
“But with speculation of the introduction of vaccine passports, and the possibility of the vaccine being a prerequisite for travel, it’s likely that more of these disputes arise between parents.
“If parents cannot agree on the vaccine, they can make an application to the court for a Specific Issue order, which means the court will decide what’s in the best interest for the child. It’s worth noting that it is highly likely that if the vaccine is approved for children and on the NHS vaccination schedule the court will view a COVID vaccine to be in the best interest of the child, and order in favour of the child receiving the vaccine.”
With school summer holidays approaching, families will be looking to arrange a long-awaited holiday, but with the red, amber, green codes in place some will need to self-isolate on return to the UK.
Nikki continued: “We’re also seeing issues arising around holiday arrangements. For example, if one parent wants to consider a holiday abroad, the other parent may be reticent about the child having COVID tests, or having to quarantine. If both parents have parental responsibility then both must give their consent before a child goes on holiday.
“With the right approach, most of these issues can be dealt with so that there is a mutually agreed resolution. It can be beneficial to have professional advice, as well as using alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, to allow both parents to reach agreement, be reassured, and avoid the last resort of attending court.”