Divorce With Respect

Who controls your child’s medical care when you’re divorced?

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2022 | Child Custody |

You thought that you and your spouse had talked through all the important issues before you ever got married and had kids – but something changed. You went one direction with your beliefs and your spouse went the other, and you found yourself increasingly incompatible over time.

Divorce hasn’t exactly made the situation any easier, because you still have to co-parent together. Now, you’re on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to your child’s medical care. You have one approach; your ex-spouse has another.

Who wins the day? It depends on your custody orders, your parenting plan and what the courts might say. Here’s what you need to know:

California has 2 types of custody

When folks talk about “custody,” they may mean physical custody (which controls where the child lives at any given time) and legal custody (which controls all major decisions about the kids). This second type of custody is what matters when you’re talking about medical care of any kind, including:

  • Medical treatment for common childhood ailments
  • Specialist care for chronic conditions
  • Dental and orthodontic appointments
  • Psychiatric care or psychological counseling
  • Occupational, physical and speech therapies
  • Routine vaccinations, including flu shots

If you share legal custody (which is common), you and your co-parent are supposed to work together and come to a consensus on how to proceed with medical care, absent any emergency.

What if a consensus isn’t possible?

If you and your ex-spouse are diametrically opposed in your beliefs, it may not be possible to find any middle ground. For example, maybe one of you believes that vaccines are the key to avoiding numerous diseases, while the other believes they do more harm than good and wants your child’s immune system to take care of itself.

In that situation, you may have no other option but to take your case to the court. Whatever your position, you want to go in prepared to justify your beliefs and your approach – with backup from your child’s medical professionals.

A dispute with a co-parent over something small is merely an annoyance, but disputes over medical care can get very heated. Make sure that you get experienced legal guidance so that you fully understand your position, limitations and rights.