Disputes in family court are often highly emotional and can cause parties to be very reactionary. This can certainly be true when divorced couples are making decisions about their child. If a child of divorced parents is undergoing therapeutic treatment, there may be some conflicting ideas about how it should proceed.

Requirement of Notice

States vary in their decision of whether a minor may consent to therapeutic treatment on their own, so if a parent must give consent as well, the consent of both parents may be necessary. In a family that is intact, either parent may generally allow the child to attend therapy. Generally, a therapist will want consent or at least will want to inform the other parent of the treatment, but this may not always be necessary or desired. However, some states mandate that you must notify both parents.

Sole Legal Custody

If a custody arrangement exists that lists one parent with sole legal custody, then they have to be the one to authorize therapy. Having sole custody means that this parent makes the decisions about welfare, health, education, and spiritual guidance. A parent who does not have legal custody has limited rights to make these decisions and cannot consent to therapy or access to medical records for a minor child. Remember that state laws vary regarding these rules and limitations.

Joint Legal Custody

Parents that have joint legal custody share the rights to make decisions about welfare, healthcare, and education for their child. Unless specified, generally the consent of one of these parents is enough for therapy and access to medical records. The court will state if there is a different arrangement to be adhered to and you may have to at least notify the other parent if you are treating their child.

The arrangement may be ambiguous, and therapists have to act carefully and pay attention to the circumstances in order not to violate the court’s arrangement. If you are a therapist and have questions about a potential patient’s legal custody, you may be able to request a debriefing with the attorney of the parent asking for treatment. The court may be able to provide information as well. It is important to comply with the court and if you cannot determine that you can comply, you may respectfully decline a patient. You could possibly proceed with treatment if you can get the consent of both parents, just to be sure you don’t violate any legal orders. If they cannot agree, they may have to work it out with their lawyers or in court.

Therapists and Court Orders

If you are having difficulty arranging therapy for your child due to altercations between you and your ex-spouse, consider calling a family law attorney Tampa FL relies on to discuss your options, They can let you know what you are able to do without your spouse and what you can accomplish in court.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Mckinney Law Group for their insight into family law.