Informed Consent Only Required From One Parent for Medical Decisions Regarding a Child

Divorce is hard on both spouses when they realize that they can no longer function together as a team. Divorces can often become acrimonious, making it difficult for former spouses to negotiate the divorce settlement, and even mores when children are involved. Though adults may attempt to shield children from the ugliness of a hateful divorce, children and the issues surrounding their well-being are often at the forefront of the controversy. If you and your spouse are in the middle of a divorce and having difficulty making decisions together about the welfare of your children, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Florida Presumes Co-Parenting is in the Best Interest of the Child

According to Florida’s family law, there is a diligent effort to include both parents in the raising of the children. This is because Florida has established a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child that both parents are present and available and are involved in equal parts. The creation of a co-parenting plan aids in effectively implementing the day-to-day decisions for the children at the center of the divorce. This lays out when the children will be with which parent, and how the child will be raised. It is the effort of the Florida legislature that any decisions made on behalf of the children are made with both parents consenting. However, this is not necessarily an easy reality and the reasons that the parents are divorcing may in fact involve the decisions of how the children should be raised. When the parents are unable to agree, the courts, which do not want to waste valuable resources arbitrating, will determine which parent is most appropriate to make which decisions regarding the well-being and the raising of the children.

In other words, if one parent is involved more in the domestic matters of the child and is more in tune with the child’s teachers, friends, activities, and the day-to-day interactions, it might make sense for that parent, rather than the less-involved parent, to make decisions regarding these topics. However, if another parent is a doctor or nurse, it might make sense to permit that person to make all medical decisions regarding the children because he or she is more informed.

One Parent’s Consent, Not Both, is Necessary for Informed Consent

However, there are situations, especially in medical emergencies, where there is no time to argue and debate about the life and death of a child. In a situation in which the parents are equal deciders on the health and medical care of a child, the reasonable choice is that one decision is better than no decision. In other words, in a medical emergency, where both parents are equal decision-makers, and one parent is at the scene and another parent is not, medical professionals only require informed consent from one parent, and not the other.

The Court’s Holding on One Parent Consent

This opinion was issued in May 2016 in the First District Court of Appeal of Florida. Though the Florida Supreme Court has not ruled, this appeals court decisions sets precedent in its jurisdiction, stating that Florida law does not require both parents to consent, but only one, and additionally, it is not the requirement of medical practitioners to play arbiters to both parents who may disagree. When the consent is for a medical action that is accepted by medical standards and practice, and when the medical practitioner has informed the consenter about the procedure and any potential risks or harm, then the medical practitioner has done the extent of his or her duty to receive informed consent before any medical action is practiced on the child.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.