Parenting plans are usually clear that either parent may authorize emergency medical or dental care for the children while they are in that parent’s care. But what happens when parents have joint decision-making authority over non-emergency medical care and they can’t agree?
This issue often comes up when a doctor or other professional has diagnosed and/or recommended treatment for a physical or mental health condition such as allergies, ADHD, or depression. Sometimes the parents not only disagree about the treatment, but about the actual diagnosis in the first place.
When parents disagree about a diagnosis or treatment, the easiest way to resolve the dispute is to get a second opinion. If the two professionals have radically different diagnoses, you might ask them to consult with each other and then talk to you together about their differences. If necessary, ask the two professionals to suggest a third professional to review their recommendations, evaluate your child and make their own diagnosis. Of course you will have to pay for these consultations, but they are invaluable in helping you resolve your differences.
Some parents hesitate to take these steps because they think it’s too much trouble, they don’t want to hurt the professional’s feelings, or the professional will be annoyed if their diagnosis and treatment recommendations are not accepted without question. Don’t let any of that stop you – professionals understand the need for more information and they do not mind.
After evaluation by two or even three professionals, what if you still can’t agree about what to do next?
First, focus completely on the child and set aside your own personal bias. If anger towards the other parent is getting in the way, find a counselor who can help you work through it so you can focus on what’s best for your child.
Second, rather than starting with the disputed decision itself, think about how you will make the decision. If you can’t agree even about that, take your dispute to mediation, arbitration, or a decision-maker. These forms of alternative dispute resolution can start by helping you figure out what information each of you need to break the impasse.
- What additional information do you need about specific treatment outcomes?
- What additional information do you need about the methods used to reach the diagnosis?
- What kind of information will you trust?
- Where can you find the information you need?
- How long will it take for you to gather the information you need?
After you’ve agreed to how you will make the decision, and have had time to gather the information you have agreed you need, but are still unable to reach an agreement, continue with alternative dispute resolution to work out the details of an agreement regarding the actual decision.
Hopefully, these nonemergency medical, dental, and mental health decisions will not need to be made often, but it’s good to have a plan for when they do.
© 2016, The Wollard Law Firm PC, dba Foothills Family Law