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Divorce law blog

My ex and I don’t agree on medical treatment for our child – What can I do?

03/07/2017   By: Sophie Whitehead

The law only requires one parent with parental responsibility to provide consent for medical treatment for a child. However, in practice, where parents both have parental responsibility but are in disagreement, a doctor is unlikely to want to go against one parent’s express wishes. So how can this situation be resolved?

  • Talk. Remember that the best interests of your child comes first, whatever conflict may be taking place between you and your ex. Try and take the time to each listen to each other’s viewpoints and seek the expert opinion of the clinician involved. Remember that health professionals are only concerned with the welfare of your child. Mediation may be a useful tool to help you and your ex to communicate more effectively and work towards an agreement. 
  • Involve your child. In some cases, a child under the age of 16 may be considered competent to consent to medical treatment provided they have the intelligence and understanding to appreciate what the medical treatment will involve. 
  • If you and your ex are still unable to reach a consensus, then the decision may have to be taken by the clinician caring for your child. This could well involve a court application meaning the court will make the decision based on what is in your child’s best interests. Particularly if the dispute is over an elective procedure (for example, infant circumcision for religious purposes) then a doctor will not proceed with the procedure without a court order. 

However, in an emergency, and where treatment is time critical and waiting to obtain consent would place your child at risk, remember that medical treatment can proceed without consent from either you or your ex.

The family lawyers at Mills & Reeve are experienced in helping to resolve disputes involving children. Many of our family lawyers are also trained in collaborative law or as mediators and can offer a unique approach to reaching an amicable agreement.

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