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When you share custody, who's in charge of medical decisions?

You received a call from the school: Your child was hurt on the playground equipment, and they want to know what you'd like them to do. It's not your day for custody, but your ex-spouse isn't answering. On top of that, they aren't sure if your child needs to go to the hospital or if you'd prefer to pick them up yourself.

In this circumstance, most parents understand that whoever gets the call should go to their child's aid. However, depending on who has legal custody, you may not be able to make decisions on their care.

Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make decisions about your child's schooling, religion, housing and medical care. Normally, parents share legal custody even after divorce, but there are cases where one parent may only have physical custody and not legally be able to make decisions about their child's medical care.

Your parenting plan should have information about emergencies in it. If the custodial parent or parent with legal custody isn't able to be reached, then it makes sense to do what everyone agrees is in the child's best interests at that time. Sometimes, medical care, for example, can't wait for someone to check their phone or get back to the school from a great distance, especially when the other parent can be there sooner.

If you have legal and physical custody in Lakewood, you don't have to worry about making health care decisions on your child's behalf. However, you should make sure that you notify the school and your ex-spouse about where you'll take your child if this isn't your time for custody. Most reasonable parents would agree that good communication in an emergency is all that's necessary to resolve the situation.

What should you do if you're not available and the other parent can't be reached?

In that case, you may want to let the school decide. Ask them to call an ambulance or to take your child to get care, and continue to try to reach the other parent. This can be an issue for parents who travel or who have no ability to be there physically on noncustodial dates, so it's another thing to include in your parenting plan and discuss with the school, so it's clear what your wishes would be in an emergency.

Parents always need to do what's in their children's best interests. If your child is hurt and you have legal custody, then you have the right to make medical decisions.

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