Co-parenting when your child has medical needs
By Gianna Huesch
What happens when a separated couple is faced with their child’s medical issues?
Divorced parents know it can be difficult to co-parent at the best of times, but if your child is going through a serious illness or medical issue, it is sure to be a particularly testing time for you both.
Having a child undergo a serious medical issue is a time when communication and cooperation are more important than ever. It’s a time you need to put aside your petty divorce differences to focus on what matters most. This can be extremely difficult at a time of heightened emotions, and in a situation when some couples no longer even talk let alone be ‘amicable’.
Are there any tips experts can offer to help you manage this highly stressful time for the sake of your child getting the best possible care? The following tips may help.
Be prepared for enforced time together with your ex:
- You may need to share waiting rooms and examination room appointments and it may be unavoidable that you share time at hospital or during medical appointments or procedures. While you may actively dislike your ex, always remember this is not about you, and your child should be able to feel as much love and support in the situation as possible—from both parents. You may not both need to attend all routine appointments, but for surgeries and other hospitalisations, you may need to cross paths with your ex, and you need to mentally prepare for this. Seeing a divorce counsellor can be especially helpful at this time.
- Enforced time together needs you to really step up your maturity. Your child does not need any fighting or drama at this time. Focus on the practical: some couples are able to use the enforced time together to discuss plans for the holidays, how the child’s recovery will be handled, or school issues, etc.
Do not withhold information!
- Unless there are specific court orders and a legal reason not to, no parent should deny the other parent access to the child’s status and the ability to research and query healthcare providers. Both parents have the right to know what is happening with their child and to be able to access information and help.
- Legally, there may be medical releases that need to be signed to allow both parents to access medical records and communicate with healthcare providers.
- If your ex is not able to attend appointments, you can give him or her a summary of the events and outcomes by text or email so that they can stay in the loop. Withholding information out of spite ultimately threatens to hurt your child, not your ex.
- If there are disagreements about care or doctors, you need to separate the reasons for the disagreement from the issues around the divorce and above all, you need to remain calm so that you can make sensible decisions for your child.
- Some hospitals offer the service of a social worker to help mediate these situations and provide referrals to support services.
- Disputes about payment for care can also be a source of conflict. If you have court orders this may spell out such arrangements, but in the absence of court orders, it’s important you and your ex agree specifically and early on about how costs will be shared. If one party is more well off than the other, it may be wiser to have that party pay costs upfront and pursue collection from their spouse later, rather than potentially affect the child with drama relating to ongoing financial disputes.
Ultimately, this is the time to swallow your pride and discomfort and work together to ensure your child receives love and care from the whole family.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Cristina Huesch or one of our solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 for a free initial conference to see how we can help you.