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Who will make medical decisions for your children after divorce?

On Behalf of | Jan 13, 2022 | Divorce

Parents have to constantly make important decisions on behalf of their children. You decide where your child goes to school and what religion they follow. Parents also have to make crucial decisions about health care.

You and the other parent must decide whether your children will receive elective procedures and what professionals provide them with care. When you divorce or separate from the other parent of your children, you may eventually find yourself disagreeing about what medical care your children require.

Who ultimately gets to make those decisions?

Virginia custody orders assign legal authority, not just parenting time

When you negotiate a custody arrangement with your ex or litigate custody matters in the Virginia family courts, the formal custody order or parenting plan that results from that process dictates your responsibilities.

Generally, parents will share physical custody, which involves providing for the needs of the children and having parenting time with them. Parents also have to find ways to divide legal custody, which is decision-making authority. In Virginia, it is common for the courts to split both parents in time and legal custody between parents. You need to look over your custody order to determine which of you actually have control over your children’s medical care.

Both you and your ex may have the right to make decisions during your parenting time. Alternatively, you may have the right to make decisions about certain issues. If your faith was very important to you, you may have focused on religious authority while your ex wanted educational and medical decision-making power. It is also common for judges to expect that parents will share authority and reach an agreement about major parenting matters. 

What if you don’t have authority but you think you need it?

Has your ex refused to let your child with cancer begin chemotherapy treatments? Have they recently become anti-vaccine and refused to let your shared toddler receive the rest of their mandatory immunizations?

When you believe that the person with decision-making authority for your children has failed to act in their best interests, you may be able to file a custody modification request. If a judge agrees that it would be in the best interests of the children, they may change the division of legal custody so that you have some say in important medical decisions.

Learning more about custody rules in Virginia can help you be a better and more involved parent.


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