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Child custody: Who gets access to medical, health records?

Pennsylvania parents who have negotiated their own divorce recognize how complicated some of the issues can become. Everything from child custody to visitation and child support are typically on the table for discussion. Other issues are important as well, such as how the holidays will be split and providing for access to medical and health records. This is an issue of particular importance to fathers, particularly since more than 80 percent of single parent households are said to be headed by the mother.

One father discovered during his divorce proceedings that his wife had apparently gone behind his back and filed a do not resuscitate order concerning their child without discussing the matter with him. He sought to intervene and encountered difficulty in simply obtaining a copy of the records. He then argued that the wife had no authority to file such an order without his consent.

These issues are difficult and best addressed during the divorce process or child custody negotiations. Absent an agreement that both parents are entitled to copies of school and medical records, a noncustodial parent may be confronted with administrators who are resistant to sharing documentation. Some schools and medical facilities may even suggest they need to see a court order before releasing information that could be considered a violation of privacy laws,

As incongruous as it may seem that a father or mother could be denied access to their children's medical or educational records, it does occur. These types of child custody issues are particularly well suited to alternative dispute resolution solutions such as mediation or a collaborative effort. Failing that, a Pennsylvania court will necessarily decide such issues from the standpoint of the best interests of the child. Parents who wish to remain meaningfully involved in the lives of their children may benefit from specifically addressing the questions of access to records and including it in any formal settlement.

Source: Huffington Post, "Divorced Dads' Rights: Father Fights For Say In Son's DNR Order, Access to Medical Records (VIDEO)," Nov. 12, 2012

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