Child Custody,  Coparenting

Co-Parenting When Medical Issues Arise

When my dad was hospitalized, I reflected on my blessings. Two parents who love me and my sister. I also had time to think about all those cases (not one or two, but MANY) over the years in which parents so hated each other, that the kids were forced to endure revolting behavior from one or both  of their gene donors. And those past cases (which translate to living, breathing kids for me) basically  ticked me off.

Now those of you who have learned to put aside your differences and think of your children first, probably can’t imagine not telling the other parent when their child is in the hospital because of illness or an accident. Or, not letting your child visit the other parent who may be in the hospital.

But I’ve seen these nasty deeds committed by several parents over the years. If your child is sick or hurt, they’re probably scared. They probably need comfort from not just mommy but daddy, too (and vice versa).  They need to know both parents (and relatives from both sides of the gene pool)  love them and care about them.

What’s even worse is those parents who don’t tell the other parent and then imply or outright tell the child, that the other person didn’t care enough about them to show up. How much of a sociopath do you have to be to do that? I truly believe there is a special place in Hell for parents who do things like this to their kids.

When their parent is in the hospital, the child is going to be scared and worried. They have every right to be taken to the hospital to see their mother or father. If nothing else this would set aside any unwarranted fears. (I’m not going to talk about worst case scenarios here as that could be a minefield to tread through at this point.)

Just as bad as not telling the other parent about their child being hospitalized is for the parents and/or extended family members/significant others to get into arguments, physical assaults and generally cause a hellacious scene at the hospital.  (Yep, I’ve been involved with people who have done this and been thrown out of the hospital and/or arrested all in front of their poor sick kids.) Real mature folks. Let’s leave the fireworks for celebrations.

This is a critical time for your child. He or she needs your combined love and support as much as, if not more than, any time in their lives. So tell the other parent IMMEDIATELY if your child should have a problem that lands them in the hospital. And for heaven’s sake, act like two mature adults who care more for their child than they do about getting back at each other. Don’t make rude or snide comments. Don’t place blame. You don’t have to like each other. But you do have to support each other as parents, especially in front of your child.

If the hospitalized child has a sibling, work out who that child will stay with in a reasonable and civil manner. So what if it’s not that parent’s access period? If the other parent lives close enough, he or she needs to step up, offer to take the other child(ren) to make certain their needs — education, activities, etc. are met and that they don’t feel abandoned. And the other parent should agree graciously.

Now I want to make one thing clear for this post. My opinions have been based on assuming both parents are able to have unsupervised access with the child. Even if the parent is ordered no unsupervised access, most likely he or she still has a right to know about medical emergencies. If you’re in doubt because of specific orders in your case, then contact your attorney at the very first opportunity to get legal advice. That’s what you pay them for.

Some of you probably think that this really couldn’t have happened a lot. But based on 20 years of working with families, I can say that unfortunately these scenarios have played out numerous times.

Even more frequently, one parent may not inform the other parent of routine doctor appointments, medications, etc. It’s important that both parents have access to the doctors and information on medical issues and medications, so the child’s needs are met at both homes. Even if the other parent can’t attend appointments, he or she should be notified. (Again – this assumes both parents have legal rights to this information.)

It doesn’t do your child any good to not get his or her medication when at the other parent’s home. And, it won’t look good for you in court should you be guilty of not notifying the other parent and providing needed medical information.

So I’m asking that you please think about your children. Let them grow up in both your homes knowing they can count on each of you to love them enough to respect each other.


Originally published on rhondahopkins.com. This post may have been modified to meet the needs of this site.


*NOTE: Here’s my typical disclaimer for these posts–I am not an attorney. These opinions are mine alone and are based on my years of experience working within the family court system. They are not meant as legal advice nor as representative of anyone else’s opinion. If you need legal advice (and I believe if you’re involved in child custody litigation, you really do),  please consult with an attorney.

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