After a divorce or separation, parents still have to work together to make decisions for their children. Co-parenting can be challenging, especially after a bitter break up or divorce, but it is imperative to the well being of the child that parents learn to look past their personal issues and cooperate for the sake of the child or children. When there are particular issues such as necessary surgery, glasses, or emergency medical treatment, parents probably won't have to try hard to come to a consensus on what is to be done. The real challenge comes when there is an optional medical procedure. What if the parents disagree?
Parents should first look to the order entered by the court in the divorce or custody matter. It is highly likely that the order states who is able to make medical decisions for the child, and whether the parents have joint or sole legal custody . If one party has sole legal custody, it usually means that parent has the sole ability to make decisions on optional medical and dental treatments, such as vaccines or braces. However, joint legal custody is preferred under California law, and is by far the more common arrangement. With joint legal custody, parents must come to an agreement about optional medical treatment before it is administered. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the parent wanting to pursue the treatment will have to file a motion at court requesting specific permission to proceed.
In the case of vaccines, each parent may need to present evidence on why he or she believes the course of vaccines is, or is not, medically best for the child. This may include testimony from the child's physician about risks and benefits of the vaccines. The court will ultimately make the decision on whether the child should be vaccinated.
Braces are slightly different. Unlike vaccines, braces can be costly and are a much less controversial treatment plan. The parent requesting that braces should be done will still need to present evidence, but it is less likely to require expert testimony. Be aware that if one parent is pushing hard for braces, he or she may end up being responsible for the cost of the treatment.
Cases involving decision making for children can be highly sensitive. We look forward to talking with you about your children and how to achieve your goals for them. Call us today at (619) 800-0384 for an appointment.