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COVID-19: If Your Child Gets Sick, Can You Make Medical Decisions Without the Other Parent?


The coronavirus pandemic has made many divorced parents wonder, “Can I make medical decisions regarding my child’s health without consulting the other parent?” The answer depends on your current child custody arrangement.

Types of Parental Responsibility and Decision-Making

Typically, Florida courts recognize three parental responsibility options that impact the parents’ medical decision-making abilities:

  1. Shared parental responsibility. A court may order this type of custody arrangement to give both parents full parental rights and responsibilities concerning their children. If you have shared parental responsibility, you must consult with the other parent regarding major decisions, including any urgent medical decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision-making authority. In some cases, courts award both parents full parental rights and responsibilities, but one patent is given the ultimate decision-making authority with respect to decisions in a specific set of areas. In all other areas, both parents must confer with each other on critical decisions.
  3. Sole parental responsibility refers to a court-ordered custody arrangement in which one parent has the authority to make major decisions regarding their child on their own without consulting with the other parent.

While most courts prefer to award shared parental responsibility where both parties should make decisions regarding their minor child, there are many potential issues with this arrangement. For example, what happens if the parents cannot reach a consensus when trying to make a medical decision for their child?

Review Your Current Parenting Plan

When parents with shared parental responsibility have different opinions about medical decisions regarding their child, they are must refer to their existing parenting plan. If you don’t have one, an Orlando child custody attorney will draft a plan that meets your expectations and can be approved by the Florida court.

If you already have one, your parenting plan may point to the pathway to ending your dispute. When parents cannot find an agreed-upon solution, the court may designate one parent as the ultimate decision-maker. However, if the other parent can prove that the designee parent is not making decisions that benefit the child, the designee may lose their decision-making authority.

Speak with an attorney if you believe that the other parent is not making medical decisions that benefit your child. It may be time to change the timesharing and parenting plan.

Your Legal Options if You Cannot Find a Solution

If your current parenting plan does not address your dispute with the other parent regarding your decision-making abilities, you will have to collaborate with the other parent to find the most acceptable solution amongst yourselves.

Keep in mind that the children’s best interests should be prioritized when making medical decisions regarding your kids. If you are still unable to find an agreed-upon solution, mediation may be another option to end the dispute.

If neither collaboration nor mediation works, the parents may have to take their dispute to court. In such cases, the court may decide to modify the existing parenting plan and give one parent the ultimate decision-making authority to prevent similar disputes in the future.

If you cannot find a mutually-beneficial decision regarding your child’s health or medical treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, speak with our Orlando child custody attorneys at Donna Hung Law Group. Get a consultation by calling at 407-999-0099.