How do I respond to a request for a child’s information from a non-custodial parent?
In most cases, agencies will be entitled to provide parents or guardians with information about their child. Providing information to parents and guardians where this is one of (or is directly related to) the purposes for which an agency holds and uses information about children is allowed under the Act.
How you should deal with a request for information from a child’s parent (whether custodial or non-custodial) will depend largely on what type of agency you are.
For schools, the Education Act is relevant as it requires schools to report if there is anything affecting a student’s progress or harming the student’s relationships.
A parent’s role as a custodial or non-custodial parent does not change a school’s duty to report to the student’s parents or guardians.
However, this does not mean that parents are automatically entitled to all information schools hold about their child. There are times when information may remain confidential between the school and a student.
For more information on how the Privacy Act applies to schools, you may want to check out our guide on Privacy in Schools(external link).
For health agencies (like medical centres or dental practices) section 22F of the Health Act is relevant. Section 22F permits parents and guardians to request their child’s health information, if the child is under 16 years old as if it was their own information (regardless if the request is from a custodial or non-custodial parent).
Where section 22 applies, the agency can withhold health information where:
- the child does not want the information to be disclosed;
- it would not be in the child's best interests to disclose the information; or
- one of the other grounds in sections27-29 of the Privacy Act applies.
For an example of how section 22F works in practice, see this case note(external link).
If you aren’t a school or a health agency, then you should only disclose the child’s information in accordance with privacy principle 11. For instance this means you may be able to disclose information because the child has consented to you sharing their information with their parent, or because your reason for having the information includes updating the parent or guardian.
We encourage agencies to take a pragmatic approach when dealing with requests for information from a child’s parent/s or guardian/s.
However, when dealing with older children, an important consideration will be whether the child has given permission for their parent/s or guardian/s to see the information.