The controversy over the new My Health Record has been splashing headlines in recent weeks. Whilst there are a number of concerns coming to light for various reasons, there is a concerning family law element to My Health that could present issues for victims of domestic violence and/or parents going through a separation.

Typically, when a child turns 14, they must provide consent to their parents to access their Medicare information. However, parents now have the ability to register their child for a My Health Record and can view and control it until they turn 18. Parents who do not have the primary care of their child (at any age) are also able to create and control a My Health Record on their child’s behalf, without obtaining the consent of the other parent.

Although this may be deemed as ensuring every parent is entitled to access and receive information relevant to their child’s health, there is a significant risk associated with this process where one of the parents is a perpetrator of domestic violence. By enabling either parent to create a My Health Record, an abusive ex-partner will be able to access highly confidential details, such as the location of medical practitioners and pharmacies attended by the child. The inevitable risk that follows is that this has the capacity to allow victims in hiding to be located.

In order to prevent this from happening, the parent who has the child in their care can request that the child’s personal identification number, linked to their Medicare account, be suspended immediately. However, whilst this sounds simple, the other parent, can then lodge a request to register as an individual authorised to act on behalf of the child. If granted, this authorises the parent to create, access and operate the child’s records – without the consent of the other parent. Experts have suggested that it is unlikely that such a request will be refused unless there is an order in place granting one of the parent’s sole parental responsibility.

When determining parenting orders for children, there is always a provision relating to whether the parents are to have equal parental responsibility, or a parent is to have sole parental responsibility. Equal shared parental responsibility effectively means that the parents are required to engage in meaningful discussions with respect to big decisions in a child’s life – for example, what school the child attends, changes to the child’s name, religion and cultural upbringing. Conversely, sole parental responsibility is granted to one parent, which authorises this parent to make decisions for the child without consulting with the other parent. It is uncommon for sole parental responsibility to be granted, and this only occurs in extraordinary circumstances. For example, when one of the parents has a vulnerable mental health condition, that may impact on their ability to communicate with the other parent in a meaningful fashion.

These concerns have been expressed to the government by various agencies and legal advocate groups, seeking that they ensure the My Health Record can be used safely across Australia. It is expected a response will issue from the Government addressing these concerns in due course.

If you have any concerns relating to parenting arrangements for your children, and require legal advice, please reach out to the team at Best Wilson Buckley Family Law.