Most divorcing parents who share custody of their children share decision-making authority when it comes to medical decisions. Some parents determine that both need to agree on any non-emergency care. Others decide that either parent can make a decision without consulting the other. With most everyone reachable via their phone at any time, however, that rarely needs to happen.
It’s usually best when parents agree on substantive medical decisions – and on costly ones (like orthodontic treatment). It’s also crucial to work out in your child support or other agreements whose health insurance policy your child will be on and how out-of-pocket and non-covered costs will be split.
It’s also a good idea to include some provisions for health care in your parenting plan. This can help you clarify expectations and ensure that you both have necessary information about your child’s health, medications and medical providers. While this is crucial if your child has ongoing issues like asthma, ADHD or even a propensity for playground injuries, it’s wise for all co-parents to put in place.
Make a plan to communicate
It’s also a good idea to work out how you’ll communicate about your child’s health and their care. It’s best when parents inform the other whenever they take their child to a doctor or emergency facility. You can ask your doctor to provide visit notes to both of you.
There may be times when you both want to accompany your child for a check-up or other medical visit. You can determine whether you want to be notified if the other is making an appointment so that you can both be involved.
If there are issues on which you disagree, like certain medications or vaccinations, it’s smart to determine who will have final say on each matter. By no means should you go behind your co-parent’s back and do something they don’t approve of. When you get “stealth” medical care for your child or withhold medications you disapprove of, you could seriously endanger your child’s health.
The more you can agree on upfront and codify, the better off your child will likely be. Having legal guidance as you do this is important. Continued communication about your child’s health and medical care (even if it’s via a shared online journal) can also help you keep your child as healthy as possible.