Medical Decisions: Protecting Your Children After Divorce

Posted by Joseph Lento | Mar 16, 2023 | 0 Comments

If you have been through a divorce and have children with your ex-partner, you may have questions about how to handle disagreements about their medical care. The type of custody agreement negotiated during the divorce will determine the options available to you in this situation.

Which Parent Makes Medical Decisions for the Child After a Divorce?

Pennsylvania law allows for two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Both types of custody are granted as either sole custody or joint custody.

  • What is Legal Custody?During a divorce, the court will designate one parent as the legal custodian of the couple's child or children. This person will have the legal authority to make the major decisions in the child's life, such as those affecting school, travel, religion, and medical care, including treatments for injuries or illness, vaccinations, and dental work. When the parents share legal custody, they make these decisions together. If only one parent has legal custody, that parent can make these decisions without consulting the other.
  • What is Physical Custody?The court will also designate one parent as the physical custodian of the couple's child or children. This person makes day-to-day parenting decisions for the child, such as daily meals, screen time, and participation in sports or other activities. In cases where physical custody is shared, each parent will usually make smaller decisions regarding daily care on their own and coordinate with the other parent on more consequential issues.

What To Do When the Other Parent is Making Medical Decisions You Don't Agree With

The steps a parent can take when they disagree with the other parent's medical decisions depend on their custody agreement.

  • The parent DOES have legal custody. If the parents have joint legal custody, both parents must agree on all medical decisions for the child. If they cannot reach an agreement, they may have to settle the dispute in court. In this case, each parent should seek legal counsel.
  • The parent DOES NOT have legal custody. If the parent who disagrees with a decision regarding medical care does not have legal custody, there is not much they can do unless they petition the court to intervene. Typically, a court won't step in unless the legal custodian is making decisions that are harmful to the child or simply not in the child's best interest.

Talk to an Experienced Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney

One of the best ways to avoid conflicts with your ex over your child's medical care is to make sure your custody agreement is as specific as possible. If you and your child's other parent disagree about your child's care, it is important to speak to an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Give attorney the Family Law Team a call about your case today. We have helped many families navigate custody issues after divorce, and he can help you too. Contact the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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The LLF Law Firm has unparalleled experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Our Family Law Team will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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