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Cantrell v Cantrell [2022] NZFC 3250

Published 25 November 2022

Guardianship dispute — COVID-19 vaccination — admonishment — contravention of parenting order — Gillick competence — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 5, 6, 7B, 15, 16, 46R, 56 & 68 — New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 11 — K v B [2010] NZSC 112 — Lawson v Pugh [2019] NZFC 5092 — Alex Stone v Sophie Reader [2016] NZFC 6130 — Long v Steine [2022] NZFC 251 — Holloway v Parsons [2022] NZFC 805 — Four Aviation Security Service Employees v Minister of Covid-19 Response [2021] NZHC 3012 — Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority [1986] AC 112, [1985] 3 All ER 402, [1985] 3 WLR 830, [1986] LRC (Const) 715, [1986] 1 FLR 224, 2 BMLR 11 — Moore v Moore [2014] NZHC 231 — District Health Board v Dee [2019] NZHC 834 — Hawthorne v Cox (2007) 26 FRNZ 440, [2008] 1 NZLR 409, [2007] BCL 975, [2008] NZFLR 1. The applicant father sought orders in relation to the contravention of a parenting order by the respondent mother. There had been an agreement that the children would not be vaccinated, and the mother later allowed two of the children to be vaccinated against COVID-19, against the father's wishes. The father now sought a formal admonishment and an order that the parties' children were not to be vaccinated further. In deciding whether the children should be vaccinated, the Judge noted that one of the children had a health condition that made him particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. The views of the children were heard and the Judge noted that given their ages, the role of the parties was to advise and help the children to make decisions affecting them rather than making the decision for them. The Judge preferred the Ministry of Health guidelines which found the vaccination to be safe and recommended two doses. Considerable weight was given to each of the children's views, and vaccination was held to be in their welfare and best interests. The Judge directed that all three children were to receive the second and all future COVID-19 vaccination doses as recommended by the Ministry of Health. In addressing the guardianship dispute, the respondent was held to have understood that guardians are required to act jointly when making guardianship decisions for the children. The Court acknowledged that the applicant had attempted to discuss the issue of vaccination with the respondent, and had been ignored. Similarly, guardianship matters that required consultation and agreement such as schooling and serious medical matters were decided upon unilaterally by the respondent. The Judge expressed concern at this and formally admonished the respondent for not informing the applicant of those matters concerning both guardians. Judgment Date: 11 April 2022 * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *