Children and Divorce: Who Makes the Medical Decisions?

Parents anticipating a divorce or in the midst of a divorce focus on issues of child support, custody, parenting time and education of their children. Emancipation is looked at in terms of whether or not child support will be continuing and if parents will be paying college tuition and expenses.

It is rare that attention is also focused on the fact that once a child turns 18 the parent is no longer able to make healthcare decisions for the child without the child’s written authorization. What does this mean?

As each child celebrates his/her 18th birthday, the child should include in the planning of the celebration the execution of a healthcare Power of Attorney known as a healthcare Proxy. If a child is 18 or older and is injured in a car accident after a prom or a graduation celebration, parents may encounter problems in the medical community making decisions for their child since their child is now considered an adult. Without HIPAA authorization (the medical privacy act), which should be part of the Healthcare Proxy, medical personnel are not allowed to share medical information with anyone other than the patient. The parent appointed by the child as the child’s Proxy for Healthcare will be able to make the medical decisions necessary for that child without having to contend with legal barriers.

I suggest you discuss this issue with your mediator and then with your child. The discussion with your child may be uncomfortable because parents do not want to contemplate that their child will be in a critical medical situation which requires the parents to make life and death decisions for their child and the child thinks he/she is invulnerable and doesn’t have to think about being injured or sick.

Please take this issue to heart and call me if I can be of assistance to you.

Advertisements