Can I Take My Child to the Doctor Without My Ex's Permission? Lawyer Says...

This week, our family lawyers clarify unofficial visitation and custody rights of two parents -- one of whom doesn't believe their daughter is sick, and the other wants to take her to her doctor's appointment.

The Question: Can I still take my daughter to the doctor when my ex doesn't want me to?

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My ex and I have joint legal custody. I have a pediatrician appointment scheduled for my daughter. It's been planned for over a month now. The father knows about the time, day, place, and doctor. It is scheduled during my time with my daughter. Ex agreed to allow me to make this appointment.

He is telling me [now] that he will send me over an email stating he now does not give consent. Then said, see you at mediation and I better not take her.

The doctor is aware that she is coming in for a well-documented feeding/sensory disorder and chronic constipation. Father does not agree she has a problem, even though it's been well-documented and diagnosed, not only at a children's hospital but at different feeding centers.

The Answer: Before formal custody is established, both parents have equal access and rights to the child. However, be prepared to prove the medical issue during mediation.

Hi there! We hope your daughter is feeling better, or at least getting her chronic illness under control.

As for your question about taking her to the doctor, you didn't specify whether you had a formal, court-ordered custody agreement or not. That fact plays a huge part in the legal answer to your query.

For now, assuming (dangerous) that your joint legal custody arrangement with your ex is an informal one with no court order, then you should be within your rights to take your daughter to the doctor during your regularly scheduled custody.

In Maryland, generally both parents have equal rights and access to the child prior to any sort of formal arrangement.

It's typically only after the court gets involved -- through the official parenting plan via marital settlement agreement or a final divorce decree -- that questions of what can be done, when, legally become sticky.

Therefore, you have the right to get your daughter seen by a specialist during your time with her; your ex has the right to not take her to the doctor during his time with her.

As for that "see you in mediation" comment, you and your legal representative will want to produce all that official documentation proving your daughter's diagnosis and the need for treatment during mediation.

Once her illness is an established fact in the matter -- either during mediation or a formal court trial -- your lawyer may be able to argue that not taking her to the doctor may have constituted legal child abuse.

After all, child abuse can be legally defined as an absence of needed care, not just physically or mentally abusing the child directly.

Let us know if there's any way at all we could help you make sure your daughter gets the medical attention she needs to grow up strong, healthy, and happy.

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Our general disclaimer: We're lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We're providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual's attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a "real" response!