Children with separated parents

Breakup of marriage and parenting relationships is a common occurrence in our society. During and following this process, children with special developmental needs have particular vulnerabilities and may require extra consideration around their care.

Conflict and breakdown of communication quite often occur during relationship breakdown, and can impact on collaboration with professional care providers.

At Coastal Developmental Paediatrics, practice and communication guidelines have been established to enable clear understanding in our work with families where parents have separated.

Requirements of separated parents

In order to work as a team with you in providing optimal Paediatric care to your child, we request that separated parents endeavour to:-

Practice Guidelines for separated parents

If you identify as being separated, the administration team will request a copy of any custody court orders and information regarding your parenting arrangements, in order to best support you and your child with appointments and communication.

Paediatricians prefer to see both parents who are sharing the care and decision making for their child, however the administration team will seek advice and permission from the parent making the appointment, as to the appropriateness of having a shared appointment, or separate appointments for each parent. If one parent books an appointment, we do not automatically offer the other parent the appointment details and the right to attend the appointment. 

If the appointment is made by one parent, it is the responsibility of this parent to inform the other parent, invite them to attend, and provide feedback to them.
Clinic reports will be sent to the parent who attends the appointment and it is the responsibility of that parent to forward information and reports to other parent. The doctors do not have the capacity to provide separate feedback to each parent without separate appointment time being made to do this. They welcome both parents to attend appointments and will provide copies of correspondence to each parent, if specifically requested.

Payment is to be made on the day of the child’s appointment.  If there is legal agreement that requires the other parent to pay all or part of the treatment costs, it is the attending parent’s responsibility to settle account and collect reimbursement from the other parent.

Where there is significant conflict, the doctor reserves the right to review the court orders, obtain signed consent from both parents, or limit their services until dispute has been resolved.  If necessary, your doctor may discharge a family from their services if the conflict is disruptive to the clinic or impedes the care of the child.
In cases where both parents are unable to be in the room together, we can offer one parent to link in with Telehealth (telephone/ Zoom videoconference) if this is appropriate.

If separate appointments are needed, please inform the administration team. The usual time-based fees will apply and there is a fee for each appointment if separate appointments are required. It is a Medicare requirement that the child must be present during the consult for the parent to claim a Medicare rebate for their attendance. Telephone or Zoom (video) telehealth consultations can be offered for one parent, and there is a Medicare rebate for these telehealth consultations if the child is present.

Cooperation between parents is necessary for therapeutic interventions to be effective. Where conflict arises between parents regarding therapeutic decisions, the Paediatrician's role is to provide an opinion, rather than require or pursue a decision.

Where specific interventions are under consideration such as the prescription of non-essential medication, the doctors' standard practice is to not proceed with the recommended treatment unless both parents are in agreement.

Please note that the Paediatricians at Coastal Developmental Paediatrics do not take referrals where the purpose of the assessment is to generate information or reports for legal decision-making around custody issues of parental separation. The doctors at this practice focus on assessment and management of children’s developmental needs and the consultations do not extend to providing expert family assessment information for the purposes of Family Law Court proceedings.

Communication Policy

The practice management software identifies a 'default' primary parent for each child. Communication regarding that child, by default, is addressed to that parent.

This identified 'default parent' applies to automatic communications such as reminder emails (sent to the email address of the default primary parent) and reminder text messages (sent to the mobile phone number of the default primary parent).

Sometimes this inadvertently leads to problem situations where information is sent to the wrong person. An example would be where a parent who is not the default primary parent on our information system makes an appointment, but the reminder information is sent to the default parent.

This default primary parent's contact details also applies to written communication. It is mostly the Paediatricians' practice to routinely copy letters, such as medical reports back to the referring General Practitioner, and also send to the child's parents as a method of enhancing communication with parents. If the Paediatrician indicates this, a single copy of their consultation letter (addressed to the referring GP) is sent to the parent identified as the default primary parent, however, the administration team can make a note in the child's file if you (or Family Court orders) require each parent to receive a copy separately. If your doctor identifies and communicates this at the time of creating their report, an admin team member will endeavour to manually email a second parent the copy of letters/ reports marked by the doctor 'for parent copy', when the doctor's reports are completed. If you require this option, please discuss this with the administration team. Please note however, this is not an automated service, so whilst we will endeavour to follow your request, this may not always be achievable.

In general, it is our expectation that separated parents work in a framework of joint parental responsibility. Legally, this means it is the responsibility of parents to work out how they exchange information.

We do not have the capacity to make complex individualised arrangements, but we try our best to accommodate two individual circumstances for the benefit of the child where this is reasonable and achievable.

If this communication policy is potentially a problem for you, please discuss this with administration staff.