Medical Decisions for Minors After Divorce in Massachusetts

| Oct 5, 2015 | Children |

Treatment for medical conditions often means making choices, including decisions made by parents for a child’s treatment. When you’re dealing with your child’s medical issues, you may not want to add legal issues into the mix. When parents are divorced, making these choices can create legal problems and conflicts. Knowing how to manage medical care issues for your child while avoiding conflicts with your ex-spouse and keeping your child healthy and safe is paramount.

Look to your custody order for the basics on who can make medical decisions for your child. Your custody order states what kind of custody you have, and may cover who makes medical decisions and pays for health insurance and the bills. In Massachusetts, custody issues are covered in a marital settlement or joint parenting agreement, which becomes part of the court’s order in your case.

Custody orders can be very detailed, going beyond medical care and finances. Massachusetts divorce law allow parents flexibility in crafting custody terms. Parents may agree on when a child is to see a doctor, sharing and disclosing records and who makes the final decision on care. Working out the ground rules during the divorce or custody action can go a long way in avoiding conflicts in future.

When a custody order doesn’t cover the specifics of who can make medical decisions and when, make decisions based on the type of your custody award. In general, “joint legal custody” means that both parents share the authority and responsibility for their child’s medical care. “Sole legal custody” means only one parent controls decisions involving the child, including medical care.

Your child’s health issues can lead to changes in your custody or parenting plan arrangement. Parents may disagree on treatment, medications and giving needed care when a child is in their custody. For example, an ex-spouse might refuse to give prescribed medicine when the child is in that parent’s care. That may lead a court to decide that a change in custody is needed.

Courts decide custody and parenting plan issues based on the best interests of the child. A parent’s failure to give a child needed medical attention is often the basis for changing custody.

Besides showing a change of custody is in the child’s best interests, to change the current custody order, you also need to show there has been a significant change in circumstances. The Family Court will consider all the new evidence and, if they believe the child’s health has been endangered, could decide to alter the existing custodial arrangement. 

Should you have concerns regarding the health and well-being of your children, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either by email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a free one hour no obligation consultation.

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