Are Medical Records Confidential in an Arizona Child Custody Case?
Are medical records confidential in child custody cases? First, how would one party obtain the medical records of a parent? I’m not going to talk about medical records for children. I’m just going to keep it to the two parents involved. So, if you’re involved in a child custody dispute, you are obviously in court before a judge, and many times the other party will want the medical records of the other parent to use against them in some way or disprove their mental fitness. Medical records can be subpoenaed via a court in Arizona. If you just get a letter from the opposing attorney saying, please provide us with your medical records, you can ignore that.
Ways that Medical Records can be Validly Subpoenaed in Arizona
There are four ways that medical records can be validly subpoenaed. With patient authorization, which I’m going to assume you’re not going to give if you’re in a child custody dispute, through a court, which is what would apply here, a grand jury if there’s some criminal investigation and then from a licensing board. In this case, if you just get the letter from the attorney with nothing else, you can essentially ignore that. Now, they can go to the judge and say, judge, we need the medical records of the other parent to prove some problem. And then, the judge would be the one that would determine whether to issue the subpoena or not. If the judge does issue the subpoena, then you would have to comply and provide the medical records. Now, those records could include mental health treatment, which is, I guess, a surprise to most people.
Are Medical Records Confidential?
If you were seeing a marriage and family therapist or a licensed professional counselor or a psychologist, or even a psychiatrist, if you were getting psychotropics in some way, all those records are considered medical records, and they could be, or you could be forced to disclose those to the other party. Now, are they confidential or not? Well, if you lose the argument and must give up the records, you absolutely need to make sure that your attorney is making certain that they are confidential. So, are medical records confidential, meaning you don’t have to give them up to the other side? No, that’s not the case. Can they be kept confidential, meaning they can’t be disseminated to third parties, or there’s some discretion in the court when discussing them? Yes, they can be, and that’s something that your attorney is going to have to make certain they argue with the judge and keep confidential to some extent.
Many people will then ask me doesn’t HIPAA protect me from giving up any of my records. The answer to that is no. I don’t think most people even understand what HIPAA is, they just use it as a word. But in this scenario, not. If the judge issues via the court the medical records subpoena, you’re going to have to provide it. I mean, if you refuse to provide it, you’re going to be held in contempt, most likely at some point. So, unfortunately, even though you’re in a trusted relationship with a therapist, those records could potentially be given up to the other side and, I guess, even potentially used against you in some way. I mean, that’s unfortunate, and most judges don’t want to see that happen. But if there is some legitimate reason to get the medical records of the other spouse or parent, I should say you may have to give them up. So, are medical records confidential? No, not really, if you must give them to the court via a valid medical record subpoena.
Can Medical Records be Subpoenaed for Arizona Child Custody Cases?
As highlighted above, medical records subpoenas are usually requested for multiple reasons. Therefore, as a medical practitioner, you should expect to get medical records requested by the court to determine a child custody case. This demonstrates the importance of the documents you submit because they will determine the parent who will be given the responsibility to stay with the child.
In Arizona, the court has the legal jurisdiction to subpoena medical records in determining child custody cases. There’s always a tendency for each party to try to argue a case for child custody. Over the years, this has revolved around economic viability and child preference. However, it’s essential to indicate that this issue has transcended medical grounds.
Under Arizona laws, if there’s justifiable evidence that suggests that the mental health of a divorcing party is in doubt, there’s a higher chance that a divorce court will order a medical exam. Such medical records help the court determine whether the divorcing parent is fit to care for the minor. If the court determines that the parent is not fit, the other parent will automatically take custody of the child.
Also, under Arizona law, the court allows both parents to access the child’s medical records from the custodian parent. This means that one is not restricted from analyzing their child’s health at any given time. This indicates that both parties have the legal right to constantly check their child’s health.
How Can a Lawyer Protect Your Medical Records?
As you can see, medical records consist of some confidential records in Arizona and across the country. This means you have the absolute right to determine who can access such records. However, there are some instances where you might be required to present such documents to a court for determination. You need an experienced attorney who can protect your right.
At Chelle Law, we understand your rights regarding the privacy and confidentiality of medical records. We will help you to protect your right from infringement and any prejudice you’re likely to face. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.