In PA Child Custody Cases, Which Parent Gets to Make Medical Decisions for the Children?
Answered by a Doylestown, Bucks County Child Custody Lawyer
In most Pennsylvania child custody cases where parents share legal custody of their children, neither parent can make unilateral decisions regarding medical issues.
- Parents usually reach an agreement with the other before any decision is made
- If parents cannot agree, the court may ultimately have to decide.
- When a child does not have the luxury of time for parents to agree, the court expects either parent to make appropriate emergency decisions when a child’s health is at risk, but will expect the parent to notify the other parent.
See the detailed discussion below regarding medical issues in Pennsylvania child custody cases.
Custody disputes in Bucks County, PA often present difficult choices and decisions for both parents and judges to make, especially those involving medical decisions for children. In most cases, parents share legal custody of their children. As a result, neither parent make unilateral decisions regarding the health, education, and general welfare of their children before reaching an agreement with the other. These decisions are sometimes difficult to agree on, especially medical issues. These complications are compounded further when a child in the custody action is physically or mentally disabled.
Factors in Determining Custody Order in Bucks County, PA When a Child is Disabled
In any custody matter, the judge must consider 16 factors in determining a custody order. When a child is disabled, the judge may weigh certain factors more heavily, which could tip custody in favor of one parent. Specifically, the judge will need to consider the need for stability in the child’s education, family life, and community life. Equally as important, is the judge’s determination of which parent is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotion, developmental, educational, and special needs of the child. Since these factors may be considered differently in cases of a disabled child, it is important to have legal representation to present the strongest case for what serves the best interest of the child.
Disagreement Over Vaccinations and/or Medications for Child in PA Custody Cases
Regardless of a child’s health, parents often struggle to agree on issues like vaccination or medication for conditions like ADD and ADHD, and the court may ultimately have to decide. If you believe your child is in need of special medical attention, the court is unlikely to order the treatment without evidence supporting its medical necessity. This evidence can be in the form of witness testimony from medical and psychological experts, as well as written documentation from treatment providers. However, evidence must conform to Pennsylvania’s Rules of Evidence to be admissible, so you should consult with an attorney to ensure the evidence supporting your position will ultimately be admissible for the court to use in its decision.
Sometimes a child does not have the luxury of time for parents to agree, and emergency medical decisions must be made. The court will expect either parent to take appropriate emergency precautions when their child’s health is at risk, but it will also require the acting parent to notify the other of the nature of the illness or incident, as well as the course of treatment sought. While sometimes emergencies may be apparent, there could be cases where the nature of the problem is less obvious. Behavioral problems in children are fairly normal, but they sometimes escalate slowly over time. Likewise, you may be concerned that medical conditions are developing but you are met with resistance from the other parent with respect to treatment options. If so, it is critical to seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney to help you present your case the court so your child’s health and wellbeing can be secured.