Children are not old enough to make all of their own decisions regarding their medical care, so parents of minor children are allowed to make these decisions on their behalf. For married couples, this usually means that they work together to some degree to come up with a solution, even if they don’t see perfectly eye-to-eye on what types of medical care they want the child to get.
A common example is vaccinations. To protect them from potentially fatal complications, most children are given the hepatitis B vaccine at birth. They’ll get another dose shortly afterward, within the first two months, and will also get vaccines for rotavirus, polio, pneumococcal, haemophilus influenzae type b, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.
But what if one parent wants to give the children these vaccines, or another type of medical care, and the other does not? And what if the parents are divorced? How do they make this decision together, and who has the right to make that decision?
The 2 roles of child custody
To understand how this works, it’s important to know that there are two different types of child custody. The first is the one that most people think of, detailing which parent the child will live with at certain times. There are cases where the child lives almost exclusively with one parent, and there are other cases where the child splits their time nearly 50/50 between both parents.
The other type of custody, however, refers to the ability of each parent to make decisions. These aren’t just medical decisions, but could also refer to things like religion or school.
For divorced parents, each type of custody can be granted. For instance, both parents may have legal custody and the ability to make these decisions, even if only one parent has physical custody. If they both do share legal custody, then they need to work together to make these decisions, or the court may have to make a ruling that it believes is in the child’s best interests. If only one parent has legal custody, however, then they have the ability to make whatever decision they want, even if the other parent disagrees with it.
You can understand how complicated this may get, and when it can become contentious, so always make sure you understand your full parental rights in the wake of a divorce.