Shared Parenting – Retained Consent to Mental Health Treatment

Teenager with hands on head sitting on bathroom floor drugs on counter. Retained Consent to Mental Health Treatment

Florida law treats consent to a child’s “mental health treatment” differently from other shared major parental decisions.  

In 2016, Florida law changed to mandate certain provisions in parenting plans. See Laws of Florida 2016-241.

Most parenting plans say parents will share parental responsibility. For such plans, section 61.13(2)(b)3., Florida Statutes, requires providing that either parent retains consent to mental health treatment for their child.

Omitting from a parenting plan or final judgment that either parent alone may provide such consent is legal error.  For example, see E.V. v. D.M.V.H., 273 So. 3d 1132 (Fla. 2d DCA  2019) (parenting plan sufficiently provided either parent may consent to health treatment for child). Compare that case with Lennon v. Lennon, 264 So. 3d 1084 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019). In Lennon, the court sent the case back to the trial court to include the missing “retained consent” provision in a final judgment.

What Happens When Parents Disagree About Consent to Mental Health Treatment?

Think about how consent to mental health treatment plays out in practice.  A modification case illustrates how parents may litigate when both disagree about therapy.

In Puhl v. Puhl, 260 So. 3d 323 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), parents agreed on a parenting plan that gave the mom ultimate decision making when the dad and she couldn’t agree. Dad alleged mom took the child to therapy the child didn’t need without first consulting him. But, before entry of final judgment, a medical professional diagnosed the child with the condition for which mom sought treatment.

The Court held mom’s taking the child to therapy without first consulting dad didn’t support modifying the parenting plan. The facts supported no finding of a “substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances” occurred.

Extraordinary Burden for Modifying Parenting Plans

This “substantial change” burden for modification for modifying parenting plans is difficult to carry. But, in Florida collaborative divorce, parents have options. They may agree to a different burden for modification.

Read more about provisions for resolving impasses when parents disagree here.

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