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Ask The Legal Expert: Settling Disputes About Your Child's Healthcare With Your Ex

View profile for Angela Killa
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My six-year-old daughter has hearing problems. My ex-husband and I, who both have Parental Responsibility, cannot agree on whether she should have a procedure, under general anaesthetic, to have grommets fitted. This disagreement is causing us all distress. Where do we stand legally on making a choice for our daughter?

This must be a stressful time for you all, not least for your daughter. As both you and your ex-husband have Parental Responsibility you are both in a position to consent or oppose medical treatment. In some ways, this is making your life trickier.

I would advise you to try to reach an amicable solution via mediation. The procedure would not be considered an emergency, so you have time to engage in this way. If mediation is not successful, or if your circumstances were more urgent, I would advise you to make an application for a Specific Issue and/or a Prohibited Steps Order.

A Specific Issue Order asks the Court to decide on a specific aspect of Parental Responsibility that parents have been unable to agree on, whereas a Prohibited Steps order prevents a certain action involving a child.

In your application, explain your view clearly, and detail why you want the Court to make the order. You should consider trying to gather evidence to support your position, such as articles from medical journals. It may be appropriate during the court proceedings to obtain expert medical advice.  It’s likely such evidence would be obtained on a joint basis by both you and your ex-husband agreeing what questions should be asked of the expert. You may also both be responsible for any cost involved.

If your daughter was older, around nine or ten, the Court would consider asking her, via a Welfare Officer, for her view. However, she is a little young for her opinion to carry weight now, since she’s unlikely to fully understand the consequences of her decision.

If necessary, the Court will reach a decision on your behalf as to whether your daughter should have the procedure. It will consider a number of factors in order to decide what is in her best interests as set out in Section 1(3) of The Children Act 1989, called the Welfare Checklist. Your daughter’s welfare will be the Court’s paramount consideration and it is likely to look at the pros and cons, the benefits and risks of your daughter having the procedure, as well as considering alternatives.


For more information, contact Angela on: 01267 234022 or: angela.killa@jcpsolicitors.co.uk.

The question posed is based upon a hypothetical situation.

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