Parental Responsibilities and Health Issues: An Exploratory Study of Legal Disputes
The dominant paradigm today is that the child’s best interests require the involvement of both parents. Consequently, joint parental responsibility continues in most cases even after separation or divorce, and family courts are increasingly called upon to make difficult decisions over children’s health. This article is based on exploratory qualitative research and aims to identify the main challenges and possible solutions regarding the way in which parental health decision-making rights are structured and who can decide what, either individually or jointly. Through the thematic analysis of two interviews with mothers involved in family court conflicts over joint parental responsibility disagreements, this article shows that the focus on the joint exercise of parental responsibilities not only fosters family conflicts and court proceedings, but sometimes holds children’s health rights hostage to parental rights and court rulings. Despite the limitations of this exploratory study, the findings reinforce the critical nature of family law and policies and the effects on family conflicts.