When parents of a child separate or divorce, one of the many issues they will deal with is the determination of who has custody of the children. While a court will order “physical custody” of the children, which is the decision of where the child lives and how much time the child will spend with each parent, the court will also order “legal custody” of the children, which involves the ability to make decisions about the child’s life, such as where they go to school. This also includes the highly important decision of how the parents will make medical decisions for the child’s physical and mental wellness. At the Law Offices of Andy Cook in San Diego, we help parties who are dealing with child medical decisions, while ensuring that the rights and interests of the parties and those of their children are preserved and protected now and into the future.
Determining Which Parent Makes a Child’s Medical Decisions in California
The most critical time for a parent to assert their right to have a say in a child’s medical decisions is prior to the time that a custody order is issued by a court. The parents of a child can create their own arrangement for custody – involving matters of both physical custody and legal custody – at the time they are seeking a separation or divorce. Who will have a say in a child’s medical decisions and how exactly those decisions will ultimately be made is something that will likely need to be discussed in detail in the legal agreement they reach given the complicated process for obtaining health care in general. The matter of which parent will pay for health care, whether through payment of insurance premiums or insured costs, may also be negotiated at this time through the parents or their attorneys. If the parties are able to reach such an agreement, their attorneys may submit the arrangement regarding a child’s health decisions (and other matters) to a judge, who will approve it if it appears fair and equitable under the law. If the parties cannot reach an arrangement regarding how the parents will work out the child’s medical decisions, it will reach its own determination and issue a binding order to that effect.
Where there is a custody order in effect laying out how the parents will make decisions for the child’s health, but one party is not following the terms of the order, or circumstances have changed since the custody order was issued requiring a new order (e.g. the parent in charge of making medical decisions cannot or will not responsibly make decisions on behalf of the child), the other parent may need to return to court to either enforce the order or seek a modification of the order.
A Child’s Ability to Make His or Her Own Health Decisions
Regardless of whether a custody order is in effect or whether the child’s parents are living together and/or married, a minor may consent to medical procedures without a parent or guardian’s consent if certain conditions are met. A minor may make all his or her own medical decisions without parental consent where the minor is 15 or older, living apart from the parents or guardians, and managing his or her own medical affairs. In all cases, regardless of the minor’s age or whether living with a parent, a minor may consent to medical care related to prevention or treatment of a pregnancy, and a minor who is 12 years old or older may seek medical treatment without parental consent for an infectious, contagious, or communicable disease, including sexually transmitted diseases.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation in California Child Medical Decisions Matters
Given the importance of making sure a child’s physical and mental wellness is properly being addressed through proper medical decisions regarding their welfare, whether in connection with a custody order or otherwise, it is essential to be well-represented by experienced family law attorneys who can prepare and present a persuasive case that argues for your interests in a compelling fashion. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Andy Cook possess the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to provide you with the representation you need in this critical area.