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.

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Social Media, Your Divorce, Your Children and Privacy

You and your spouse have very different notions of privacy.  This may be one of the underlying causes of your divorce.  You believe your life should be kept private and don’t believe in broadcasting your every move on social media.  Your spouse believes in sharing, increasing contacts and broadening networks.

You are both the proud parents of three children under the age of 9.  You want to share your children’s photographs, artwork and other visible signs of their achievements with those you love.  So does your spouse.  You are concerned that your children may be the target of online and social media predators if you are not careful about what is shared and how it is shared.  Your spouse says you are overprotective.

How do you resolve these very real differences?

You work together with your Mediator to arrive at a solution that is acceptable to both of you.  You both love your children and want what is best for them, so working towards a goal that will allow  you to protect your children as well as enable you to share your joy in your children with family and friends is certainly an achievable outcome.

Yesterday, August 25, 2016, The Record newspaper, on page BL-5, addressed a similar issue in the “Ask Amy” column.  In discussing protecting a child’s privacy, Amy Dickinson stated “I never tag anyone in photos and am deliberately vague about relationships. . .  Anyone who makes a choice to post a photo of a child including identifying details for all the world to see is taking a risk about how that photo and identifiers might be shared and used outside of their social media friendship circles, now and for all time . . .”

This is a real issue for many couples and should be addressed and included in your divorce settlement agreement.  I am available to help you with this and other issues.