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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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Divorced & Unmarried Parents: Who Can Make Medical Decisions For Your Kids?


Raising a child can be difficult and when you do not agree on major decisions with your child’s other parent, the situation only becomes more stressful. One of the common topics unmarried or divorced parents fight over is medical decisions for their child. From immunizations at a young age to treatments for a condition or disease, whether or not a medical procedure is appropriate can be a bone of contention between two parents. If you are a parent and are fighting over medical decisions with your child’s other mom or dad, contact the Leesburg family law attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC for help.

Who Has Legal Custody?

If you and your child’s other parent are arguing about a medical decision, determine which of you has legal custody. There is a difference between legal custody over a child and physical custody. One or both parents may have legal custody, which is the right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including school, religion, and medical decisions. Physical custody pertains to the daily care of the child, including where he or she lives. A judge does not have to grant legal and physical custody in the same proportions. Both parents may retain all legal custody while one parent has  share physical custody of the child. If a parent has sole  legal custody, they have the ability to decide the  child’s medical treatment. However, if you were granted joint legal custody in a divorce, you will need work out the issue with the other parent.

Consider Mediation or Returning to Court

It is usually best to work out these decisions with the other parent. After all, medical decisions will have to be made for your child for years. However, if you and your child’s parent have difficulty communicating on your own, you may want to consider mediation with the help of an attorney. If the nature of the decision is about life or death, contact an attorney right away. You may need to return to court to ask permission for a specific medical treatment.

How Old Is Your Child?

Making medical decisions for your child becomes much more complicated when instead of deciding on braces, you have to determine whether chemotherapy and radiation are the right course of action to treat cancer. Under Virginia law, a parent who refuses to provide necessary care, including medical treatments, to his or her child can be charged with abuse or neglect. However, once your child turns 14, he or she has a say in medical decisions. If a parent with legal authority and the adolescent child agree that doings so is in the child’s best interests, they can refuse life-saving treatments for serious medical conditions.

Contact Our Office Today for Help

Whether you are fighting over immunizations or there is a more serious medical concern, call Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC in Leesburg as soon as possible at 703-997-4982. We can help you determine who has legal custody and work with your child’s other parent to do what is best for your son or daughter. If necessary, we can take your fight to court.



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Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 provides that businesses that offer professional rather than retail services may remain open. Our firm is continuing to operate to ensure you and your family have advocates available for whatever legal issue you face. For clients who prefer, we can arrange meeting by Zoom or other video-conferencing. We are also implementing internal procedures to provide a safe environment in the office. Please contact us at 703-777-1795 or schedule an appointment today!