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What Happens When Parents Disagree About a Child’s Medical Treatment?

As a parent, you want the very best for your child. That holds true even after a divorce. When parents divorce, they are both typically responsible for their child’s well-being, regardless of where the child resides. There are many important decisions you and your spouse must make regarding your children, including such things as education, religion, and medical care. Of these, medical treatment may be the most significant. But what happens when parents disagree about a child’s medical treatment?

Parents Generally Share Legal Custody

There are two types of child custody, including legal custody and physical custody. Generally, when parents divorce, they share legal custody of their children. This means that both parents have the right to make decisions on behalf of their child. There are rare and limited circumstances where a parent does not have legal custody of a child; however, these situations are not the norm. Legal custody means that you have the responsibility to make decisions for a child.

Children Cannot Make Their Own Medical Decisions

It is important to note that minor children under the age of 18 cannot make medical decisions on their own. Their parents or legal guardians must make decisions about their medical treatment. Children do not possess the knowledge necessary to make complex decisions that are based on medical facts, and therefore, you cannot allow them to choose options for their own medical care. Parents must understand the medical circumstances, options, and potential outcomes to make an informed decision about treatment.

Making Medical Decisions for Children

When parents share legal custody of their children, they both have the right to make decisions regarding their medical treatment. Sometimes, parents may not agree about the care that they want their child to receive. It is important to distinguish between emergency medical care and routine or non-emergency treatment. When a medical emergency arises, parents must make decisions immediately. Parents should look to their parenting agreement to determine the course of action to take.

What to Do if You Encounter an Impasse

Sometimes, parents are not able to come to an agreement on the medical treatment to provide for their child. For example, one parent may want the child to receive a specific vaccination, such as for COVID-19, while the other parent may disagree. In these cases, the parents may seek mediation as an alternative dispute resolution option. Sometimes, the parents may take the matter to court to request modifications to the parenting agreement. It is important to note that the court will always issue an order that they feel is in the best interest of the child.

Your children’s medical care is important, so it is essential that you make sure that you include how to handle various situations as part of your parenting plan. However, disagreements can and do arise from time to time.  When you need some legal guidance, don’t delay. Contact Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or online to schedule a consultation.

Published October 2, 2023
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