When Florida parents divorce and share parental responsibility, either may consent to mental health treatment for a child. Therefore, mental health treatment providers generally may accept informed consent by only one parent to mental health treatment.
Parents Are the Natural Guardians of Their Child
Parents with intact parental rights are each the natural guardians of their own children and of their adopted children during their minority. See 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. But if the parents have shared parental responsibility, both continue as natural guardians.
What Does Medical Care and Treatment Include?
Florida law authorizes a natural or adoptive parent, legal custodian, or guardian to consent to “medical care and treatment.” “Medical care and treatment” 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.
But the definition of “medical care and treatment” doesn’t expressly include, “mental health treatment.”
Mental Health Services Overseen by Florida DCF: the Minor Child’s Guardian (At Least) One Parent Must Give Informed Consent
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.
Baker Act: Children Over 13 May Consent to Some Mental Health Treatment Without Parental Consent
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.
In the next section, we review informed consent requirements for Florida Mental Health Treatment Providers.