Florida Mental Health Treatment Professionals – Informed Consent By One Parent or Guardian

Florida law and administrative regulations support mental health treatment providers’ accepting informed consent by only one parent or authorized guardian to mental health treatment for a child. 

Parents whose parental rights remain intact jointly are the natural guardians of their own children and of their adopted child renduring the children’s minority. Section 744.301(1), Florida Statutes.  If the parents’ marriage ends, the natural guardianship belongs to the parent to whom sole parental responsibility has been granted; if the parents have shared parental responsibility, both continue as natural guardians.

Florida law authorizes a natural or adoptive parent, legal custodian, or guardian to consent to “medical care and treatment,” which includes,

ordinary and necessary medical and dental examination and treatment, including blood testing, preventive care including ordinary immunizations, tuberculin testing, and well-child care, but does not include surgery, general anesthesia, provision of psychotropic medications, or other extraordinary procedures for which a separate court order, health care surrogate designation under s. 765.2035 executed after September 30, 2015, power of attorney executed after July 1, 2001, or informed consent as provided by law is required, except as provided in s. 39.407(3).

Section 743.0645, Florida Statutes. The definition of “medical care and treatment” does not expressly include, “mental health treatment.”

With no parental consent, under The Florida Mental Health Act (also known as The Baker Act), a child 13 years or older can receive mental health diagnostic and evaluative services, individual psychotherapy, group therapy, counseling or other verbal therapy from a licensed mental health professional.  See Bittinger, Ann, Legal Hurdles to Leap to Get Medical Treatment for Children, THE FLORIDA BAR JOURNAL (January 2006), n. 30. See also section 394.4784, Florida Statutes.

Otherwise, for a minor child patient, the provider of mental health facilities, programs, or services that the Florida Department of Children and Families oversees must get express, informed consent for admission or treatment for mental illness from the child’s guardian. Section 394.459(3), Florida Statutes.

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