Collaborative Practice: Shared Parental Responsibility for Health Care

Shared parental responsibility for health care for child in Florida divorce. Doctor explaining options to older person.

How do courts in Florida handle shared parental responsibility over a child’s health care?

Florida family judges must determine parenting matters according to the child’s best interests and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.  

Exception to Best Interests: Modification of Parenting Plan

There is an exception. Modification of a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule requires showing a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances. See Section 61.13(2)(c), Florida Statutes. Courts have described this burden of proof as “extraordinary.”

The extraordinary burden for modification became less so. On June 27, 2023, the Florida Governor signed an amendment to Florida’s timesharing and Parenting Plan law. Effective July 1, 2023, Florida law on modification cuts the requirement a substantial change in circumstances for modification be unanticipated. See CS/HB 1301, amending section 61.13(3), Florida Statutes. Laws of Florida, Ch. 2023-301.

Parenting Plans and Responsibility for Health Care

Florida parenting plans must designate who will be responsible for “any and all forms of health care.” Section 61.13(2)(b)3., Florida Statutes states:

“If the court orders shared parental responsibility over health care decisions, the parenting plan must provide that either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the child unless stated otherwise in the parenting plan.” 

Section 61.13(2)(b)3.a., amended by Ch. 2023-213, Laws of Florida (effective July 1, 2023) (underlined phrased added)

But, what if the court doesn’t order shared parental responsibility over health care decisions for a child? Then, the required provision that either parent may alone consent to the child’s mental health treatment doesn’t apply.

For Sole Parental Responsibility…Showing Shared Parental Responsibility Would Be Detrimental

Parents may ask the court to find shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to their child. Further, they may ask the court to award one parent sole responsibility over mental health treatment decisions.  It’s rare they’d jointly concede sharing decision making would hurt their child.

But what if the parents don’t want to agree shared parental responsibility would be detrimental? Suppose they’d just like to make things clear…and easier?

Parents in the collaborative don’t have to impinge on each parent’s retained right to consent to mental health treatment. Instead, parents may explore options to specify parameters and protocols for their child’s mental health treatment. 

Opportunity in Collaborative Divorce to Address Mental Health Treatment

So, how may collaborating parents share parental responsibility, but clarify their intent about mental health treatment for their child?

⇒ Next: Collaborative Process: Clarifying Parents’ Intent About “Mental Health Treatment”

⇐ Previous: Amended Florida Parenting Plan Law Mandates Each Parent’s Retaining Consent to Mental Health Treatment

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