In high conflict custody cases, parents often disagree about whether a child needs mental health treatment. Divorced parents often have joint legal custody of a child, which means that the parents have to agree on a decision regarding mental health treatment for their child. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement that a child requires mental health treatment, and it is necessary to ask the court to order mental health treatment, it can take close to a year to reach a trial date. A year is a very long time for a child to go without needed mental health treatment.
Under prior law, a child age 16 or older had the same capacity as an adult (anyone age 18 or over) to consent to mental health treatment. Under the new law, any child age 12 or older who is determined by a health care provider to be “mature and capable of giving informed consent” can consent to mental health treatment. The new law provides, however, that a child under the age of 16 “may not consent to the use of prescription medications to treat a mental or emotional disorder.”
Under both the prior law and the new law, a minor does not have capacity to object to mental health treatment if it is authorized by a guardian or parent. In addition, a mental health provider may decide whether to provide information about the mental health treatment to a guardian or parent, even if the child objects.
It is unclear how often mental health providers will determine that a child between 12 and 16 is mature and capable of giving informed consent to mental health treatment, but the new legislation could help adolescent children caught in the middle obtain the mental health treatment they need.
If you have questions about this or any other Family Law issue please contact Catherine H. “Kate” McQueen at (240) 507-1718 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT KATE MCQUEEN
Catherine H. “Kate” McQueen is a family lawyer and principal in Offit Kurman’s Bethesda office and is licensed to practice in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Ms. McQueen focuses her practice on the many legal issues that impact families, including all the issues arising out of a divorce, such as custody, child support, alimony, and other financial and property issues. She also has extensive experience in guardianship matters for children and incapacitated adults, including assisting clients in petitioning for guardianship, serving as court-appointed counsel for alleged disabled persons, and serving as court-appointed guardian for individuals when their family members or friends are unwilling or unable to do so.
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