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Who Decides about Child Health Treatments When Parents are Separated or Divorced?

If your child is critically or seriously ill, who decides when you are separated and/or divorced if the child should have ongoing and future treatment if you and your ex disagree? 

The case of the little boy, Neon Roberts and his illness has been at the forefront of the news recently.

Neon’s father wanted to follow advice from the hospital treating his son, whilst the mother did not. It should be noted that both parents have joint Parental Responsibility for Neon, so both views are important.

In this case, we understand that Neon’s mother did not want the child to have radiotherapy, her arguments cited such beliefs as there could be risks both now and in the future including fertility problems, and she said that it would ‘fry the child’s brain’.

Apparently the mother prefers homeopathic treatment, and not invasive surgery to remove the tumour growing in the child’s brain. The hospital caring for Neon sought legal backing from the High Court who heard evidence from various professionals that the child would die if he was not operated on and had radio therapy thereafter. 

The Court’s role is to make a decision as to what is in the best interests of the child. In this case, it appears to have followed expert medical evidence. Although the views of parents and, indeed, the child are important, ultimately the child’s life is at stake.

Therefore it can be seen the child’s interests are paramount and where there may be a disagreement either fundamental or otherwise, if it affects the child adversely then in cases such as this, doctors can and do intervene. Fortunately the child is through the operation and continues to improve.

Caroline Harvey is a Family Law & Children Law Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

For a free initial consultation with a Children Law Solicitor call freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help.

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