When a marital relationship breaks down, that breakdown can cause some spouses to respond in a hyper-adversarial way, especially if there are children involved. They may try to lay hands on all kinds of privileged information, such as your past medical history and treatments. Often, this evidence is irrelevant and inadmissible, but you still need to know how to go through the correct legal steps to avoid having to divulge this very private and sensitive information. The right South Florida family law attorney can be instrumental in keeping your private medical information private.
S.R. was a mom caught in that kind of circumstance. After she filed for divorce, her husband, T.R., sought to force 11 medical providers, each of whom allegedly had provided medical, psychological or psychiatric care to S.R at some point, to divulge their records of any such treatment. The husband asked for a wide range of disclosures, including “notes, prescriptions, treatment records, consultation reports, lab reports, blood work reports, office notes by staff of the facility and any electronic records maintained during the course of treatment.”
In addition, the husband also asked the court to order S.R. to disclose all the records she possessed pertaining to “medical and/or psychological and/or psychiatric treatment or counseling” she’d undergone in the previous five years.
If you’re in a spot like this wife was, you might be horrified and overwhelmed by this demand. You might ask yourself, “Can he do that?” Always keep in mind that the answer to that question will always be… he can if the courts say he can! The key to protecting your privacy is to fight back effectively with the right legal representation and avoid an unfavorable ruling.
The mother’s privileged medical records were not subject to any legal exception
S.R. was able to do that. The appeals court explained that Florida law very clearly only allows trial judges to order a provider to violate the psychotherapist-patient privilege if one or more of the specific exceptions listed in the Florida Statutes apply to that case, of which there are three. One pertains only to cases where someone is seeking the involuntary psychiatric hospitalization of the patient. The second involves situations where the court has ordered an “examination of the mental or emotional condition of the patient.” Both of those very obviously were not the situation in S.R.’s case.
The third exception involves cases in which the patient has used her alleged condition as part of a claim or a defense. So, for example, if a person is a plaintiff in a civil case and she uses her depression as an aspect of one of her claims for damages, then the other side may be entitled to demand disclosure of her past psychological care and treatment.
In this wife’s case, though, none of her claims and none of her defenses made any mention of her psychological state. The husband stated that the wife’s mental state was a concern of his, but that fact by itself is not enough to trigger the statutory exception. There was no declaration that the mother was an unfit parent and no basis for violating the privilege, meaning that neither she nor her providers were obliged to disclose anything.
If you’re a parent facing a potential parental responsibility/parenting plan/timesharing case, it is very important to understand some of the limits imposed by Florida law. Know that Florida law very clearly says that, just because you’ve requested timesharing or parental responsibility, that request alone does not automatically make your mental health an issue in your case that your ex is entitled to invade and explore to his/her personal satisfaction.
A parental responsibility/timesharing/parenting plan case is probably a stressful time even under the best of circumstances. Don’t let it become more so by allowing your ex to pry into your private medical information related to a child custody matter. Protect yourself and your children by arming yourself with the finest in skillful legal representation. Reach out to the knowledgeable South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. for the diligent and effective advocacy your family deserves. Contact us online or call (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.