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Who consents to medical care for the child when parents divorce?

Many parents take for granted being able to readily take their child to the doctor for a check-up or when they’re not feeling well. Matters become a bit complicated when a couple is separated or divorced, however.

If you’re separated or divorced and you think your child needs medical care, who calls the shots? The answer may be more complicated than you realize.

How your custody agreement affects your rights

Your parenting plan may specifically address medical situations, or it might not.

In general, if you share joint parental responsibility rights with your ex-spouse, you and your co-parent need to both consent to the child’s care (absent an emergency). If you have sole parental responsibility, you can make the decisions for your child’s medical care on your own.

There’s also a possibility that your parenting plan puts the decision-making authority in the hands of whichever parent has physical custody of the child at the time a need for treatment arises as long as it involves their regular physician or is urgently needed to treat an acute problem.

What to expect when making medical appointments for your child

Your medical provider may use their intake process to screen for issues involving child custody and consent. Intake documents may even include notifications requesting you to provide them with a copy of your parenting plan to ensure that you’re legally authorized to consent to your child’s care

While this can be a frustrating extra step in the process of obtaining medical care for your child, it may be necessary for the provider to avoid liability for mistakes.

How a good parenting plan can help you avoid problems

A well-considered parenting plan can ease your concerns for your child, clarify your rights and anticipate situations where you may have to make decisions on your own before checking with your co-parent. An experienced attorney can often provide invaluable guidance and the benefit of their experience as you move forward.