Deciding Medical Care for a Child Post-Divorce
As the summer comes to a close, parents of children entering school for the first time must adjust to the change in routine and their child's daily needs. Yet while this transition is challenging for any parent, those who share child custody have the added factor of coordinating decisions on education, transportation and health with an ex-spouse.
Most schools, including those in Illinois, require all incoming students to prove they received certain vaccinations as a measure of preventing the spread of dangerous diseases. The vaccination of school-aged children has become a controversial issue in recent years, with some parents opposing the practice due to fears that vaccinations can provoke serious physical/developmental reactions in children. A difference of opinion on this issue can create complications when parents are together. However, conflicting viewpoints post-divorce can lead parents to seek Court intervention if a compromise cannot be struck.
Decisions related to a child's health are some of the most important matters a parent will ever consider, and determining how to balance this shared responsibility with an ex-spouse is a critical aspect of co-parenting.
Decision-Making Responsibilities Generally
One half of the parental responsibilities of which divorced or separated parents share is the right to make decisions over certain aspects of their child's life. This right is inherent for parents generally, but becomes subject to judicial overview when custody of a child is under consideration.
Under the rubric of decision-making responsibilities, parents may consent to — or the Court can allocate — the following areas to one or both parties:
- Education, together with the choice of schools and/or tutors;
- Health, including decisions related to the child's medical, dental and psychological needs;
- Religion, which can play a role in medical decisions if a parent objects to particular treatment based on his or her belief system; and
- Extracurricular activities.
Common Issues Related to Medical Decisions
Because medical decisions are rife with opportunities for dispute, and the urgency of certain situations makes disagreements a significant obstacle to getting the child necessary care, divorced parents are best served by negotiating their own parenting plan. Hence, they may take into consideration the unique needs of the child and relevant circumstances of each party.
Forming one's own parenting plan also allows the parties to incorporate provisions that offer a level of flexibility a Court cannot provide due to restrictions in the law and a lack of intimate knowledge of a family's dynamics.
Issues that commonly spark disputes over medical care include:
- When to take a child to the doctor;
- Selecting a doctor for the child; and
- Disclosing records related to doctor's visits to the other parent.
Methods of Addressing Disputes in the Parenting Plan
Often, the parent who acts as the primary caregiver is given ultimate authority over medical decisions, even if the other parent has the right to offer input. However, if the parent with less parenting time wants a genuine opportunity to have a say over medical care, the parenting plan should err toward including specific terms over merely listing who has general decision-making authority. In other words, incorporate provisions that outline how medical decisions will be made, and what the options are if agreement cannot be reached.
For example, decide if one or both parents will attend medical appointments, as well as when and how to exchange information about the child's health with the other party. Please note, however, that if a parent believes the child's life is being endangered by the other parent's medical decisions, he or she can petition to modify custody. Still, the hope is to avoid this situation by taking charge of the parenting plan, and working together to formulate a plan that will best serve the child's needs.
Talk to an Illinois Family Law Attorney
Decisions related to your child's well-being should never be left to chance. Talk with a passionate Barrington family law attorney today if you have any questions or concerns about your parental rights. The Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. understands how sensitive these issues are, and will work to find an amicable solution, or act as a dedicated advocate, if necessary.