Communication when your child is sick

Posted on Jun 10, 2019 by Katie Carter

Having a sick kid is bad enough. Having to deal with your child’s father while you have a sick kid is even worse.

Most agreements – and court orders – specify that when the child is in your care, you need to notify the child’s other parent of any illness or injury. Now, I think we can be reasonable here, and assume that doesn’t mean that you have to let your child’s father know every single time your child sneezes or has a slightly runny nose. (Unless, of course, you’d lambast him for not letting you know if the roles were reversed; in that case, go ahead and notify him about the runny nose.)

You should definitely let him know, though, about any condition that your child might need medical care. If he’s running a high fever, for example, I think that’s definitely worth communicating.

Keep in mind that joint legal custody means that the two of you must cooperate with respect to non-emergency medical decisions, religious upbringing, and education. It’s kind of hard to cooperate, sometimes, because the two of you share entirely different opinions – and one versus one is a tie, so it’s not like there’s any quick and easy way to have a tiebreaker vote cast. Sure, you could file something with the court, but if it’s just a regular old virus or something, chances are virtually 100% that it will have run its course by the time you get a hearing date. And it’s hardly an emergency, as you can imagine. It’s not exactly proactive, either, because it’s not like the judge will order that you ALWAYS take the child immediately to the pediatrician, for example, when he has a fever that’s the same as what he has right now, or whatever. It doesn’t work like that. So, to some extent, the two of you will just have to cooperate and figure out how to coparent effectively together.

I know – that’s hard. And it’s harder still when children are sick. And it’s even harder when one of you is absent. I’ve experienced that in my own life, too. My husband travels a lot for work, and whenever our son is sick and he’s gone, he’s all, “Take him to the doctor right away!” I know full well that if he were at home, he’d blow it off – but what can I do? He’s gone, and he can’t experience it with me. He’s worried. I get it. So, regardless of whether I feel like it’s just a virus, I take the kiddo in to the pediatrician. After all, what can it hurt? And my husband feels better, and we both know we’ve done everything we could’ve done, even if we walk out with nothing but a sympathetic nod of the head and no medication to help us through.

It’s not easy to coparent when a child is sick. Nothing much is easy when your child is sick! And, it’s hard to remember, especially when you’ve probably been up a couple extra times and the crying fits may be driving you crazy or you’ve spent the last three hours cleaning up the vomit from the grout on the tiles in the bathroom floor, but your child’s father is worried, too. And he’s not there, so he can’t see – and he probably can’t help but ask a lot of questions.

Do you have to keep him informed? Umm, yes. If you have an agreement or court order that says you should, you absolutely do. Even if you don’t have an agreement or court order that requires you to let him know, you should. It won’t reflect well on you if you go to court and he shows texts or emails or missed phone calls where he’s trying to reach you to check on your child, and you refuse to give him any information.

For that matter, you should always let him know about any doctor’s appointments or other appointments that you schedule. Even if you’re headed into Urgent Care or to the emergency room, you can always shoot a quick text (if it’s an emergency, you can even do it after you’ve arrived, just to let him know) to say where you are and how to find you. Hey, it’s what you’d expect, right?

There aren’t perfect rules set down to govern every situation, but I think that, in general, it’s a good idea to treat your child’s father the way you’d like to be treated. If your child were ill or hurt in his care, you’d probably want lots of updates. If he took the child to the doctor, you’d want to know about it so you could be there, if necessary. I know – it’s not easy to do these things together when you’re no longer together, but, as a parent, it’s an important thing. It’s critical, really. And it can go a long way towards mending fences and making other interactions easier between the two of you. Just feeling like there’s information available and transparent communication can help to empower BOTH parents to trust each other and the system.

After all, you’ve got lots of years left of loving and trying to take care of the same little people – even if they’re actually nearly grown up people. It doesn’t stop at 18, you know.

Remember, custody and visitation are always modifiable based on a material change in circumstances. If your custody and visitation currently is more or less what you’d like to keep in place, it’s probably best not to rock the boat and encourage him to attempt to modify your current order. If you hate it and want to change it, it’s probably best to follow all the rules and remember to include your child’s father in these kinds of situations – after all, you don’t want the judge to find that you’re the one who struggles the most with coparenting!

For more information, to schedule an appointment, or to request a copy of our custody book for Virginia moms (LINK), visit our website or give our office a call directly at 757-425-5200.