What If My Ex and I Disagree About Our Kids' Vaccinations & Other Health Matters?
When you and your ex disagree about something as important as your child’s healthcare, it can be difficult to know what to do next. Every good parent wants to protect their child and keep them healthy — but that may mean something different than to you than it does to your ex. For example, you may wish to have your child vaccinated and your child’s other parent may be anti-vaxx. Other medical disputes might involve the choice of doctor for your child, whether or not to administer medications, or choice of medical treatment. If your child has a serious illness, you might even be in a position where you and your co-parent have to make medical decisions about surgeries, medications, and treatment options on a daily basis.
Regular disagreements can certainly take their toll, but when it comes to your child’s health, the stakes are higher and the resolutions can be more challenging. Even if both of you want what is best for your child, you might not see eye to eye. When faced with such a serious disagreement, how do you proceed?
Finding Common Ground
Before taking serious measures, try to discuss the issue with your co-parent and see if the two of you can find common ground. Try to focus on understanding where the other person is coming from and where you two can meet in the middle, rather than simply arguing your point. You might agree to see a new doctor and get a medical opinion before either of you proceeds, or you might try to reconfigure how you make parenting decisions altogether. For example, if one parent is extremely passionate about healthcare decisions, maybe that parent takes charge of healthcare decisions while the other gets more authority when making choices about the child’s education.
In an ideal world, parents will be able to reach an agreement regarding all aspects of raising their kids, but that simply isn’t the case in most co-parenting dynamics. If you both feel very strongly about the issue and are not able to come to an agreement, you may have to take more drastic measures.
Who Gets the Final Say?
When it comes to resolving disagreements over your child’s medical care, the parent with legal custody ultimately has the authority to make any pertinent decisions about their child’s well-being. If one parent has sole or primary custody, he or she can decide how to handle the child’s healthcare regardless of what the other parent wants. However, if both parents share custody, they must make any decisions regarding their child’s welfare (including medical care) together.
If parents share custody, figuring out who gets the final say can be extremely difficult unless you previously worked out the details of decision-making in your parenting plan (which is something divorcing parents should strongly consider). Ultimately, when both parents have equal rights to make parenting decisions, the court may be forced to consider awarding one parent sole legal custody over the other. By awarding custody to one parent, the court will give that parent the authority to make the appropriate decisions regarding the child’s care, thus avoiding future legal disputes between parents.
Taking the Issue to Court
In situations where parents are unable to resolve their dispute, they may have to take the issue to court. When parents seek help from the court, an Oregon family judge will hear both sides of the case and decide on the best course of action depending on the best interest of the child. As stated above, the most likely course of action will be to grant one parent legal custody so that all medical decisions will go to that parent only, avoiding future disputes.
If you find yourself caught in the middle of an argument with your ex regarding medical decisions for your child, make sure you know your legal rights and options. If you have custody, even joint custody, you have a right to have a say in your child’s healthcare. Whether your co-parent is ignoring your wishes, refuses to compromise, or simply can’t be persuaded to see your view of things, make sure you contact your family lawyer.Contact McKinley Irvin at our Oregon office to meet with our family law attorneys.