Who gets to make medical decisions for children of divorce?

divorce attorney Jill DuffyQuestion:

I am convinced my child has a mental disorder. His mother, who has primary custody, will not address the situation or take him to a psychiatrist for diagnosis.

What are my rights as the child’s father to get him to a doctor and get a diagnosis?


First, let me preface my answer by stating that I am not licensed to practice law in the state of Nevada. The information in the article is general in nature. You should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction immediately to discuss your options.

There are two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody deals with who physically has possession of the child, and is usually addressed in a visitation schedule. Legal custody is the ability to make major decisions that affect the child’s life.

Your case seems to concern legal custody, because medical treatment falls into the “major decision” category. There are two types of legal custody: sole and joint. Sole legal custody gives the decision making power to one parent. Joint legal custody usually requires that both parents consult and cooperate when making decisions regarding their child.

If you have sole legal custody, you can take the child to the doctor and get any type of treatment you see fit. If you have joint legal custody, you must confer with the other parent before treatment, unless in an emergency situation.

If you do not have legal custody at all you do not have the right to get medical treatment for the child. You should look to your final decree of divorce or the last custody order in your case to determine your rights to make medical decisions for the child.

You should contact an attorney who is licensed in Nevada to further discuss the specifics of your situation. Thank you for submitting your question.


Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

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