The Minor’s Right to Confidentiality under Illinois Law

Parents are often shocked at how much control their minor child has over their mental health records. In a post-dissolution of marriage proceeding, the petitioner mother sought to restrict the father’s parenting time with their minor child based on allegations that the father would continue to interfere with the medical services necessary for the child’s mental health. The father moved for production of the child’s medical, psychiatric, psychological, and school records, and the mother objected based on the child’s statutory privilege to keep the requested records confidential and objected to disclosing the records to his father. The trial court denied the father’s entire request for production of the child’s records. The Appellate Court addressed the issues that arise in the context of divorce and post-decree matters, specifically a minor’s right to deny access to his or her mental records, whether in the context of mental health treatment by private practitioners as well as in a therapeutic day school.

The minor was seeing a therapist and attended a therapeutic day school. Father sought both the entire school records as well as the private treatment provider’s records. Mother and the child representative were both in possession of the records. The minor objected to the disclosure of these records to the father.

The Appellate Court addressed two certified questions regarding these issues. The issues raised by the modified certified questions of law are whether a trial court, in a proceeding related to a petition to restrict parenting time under section 603.10 of the Marriage Act, (750 ILCS 5/603.10 (West 2018), where the allegations involve the mental health of a child who is at least 12 but under 18 years old, may deny a parent based on the provisions of the Confidentiality Act or the best interests of the child(1) the ability to discover otherwise relevant evidence concerning the child’s mental health and therapeutic school records on the ground that the child in question does not want the evidence disclosed to one parent; (2) the ability to discover the child’s medical records concerning the child’s mental health and school records from a therapeutic school even though those records are relevant to the proceedings and the parent is entitled to have access to those records pursuant to the parties’ allocation parental allocation judgment; and (3) access to the child’s mental health and therapeutic information that the child’s representative has reviewed.

The father in this case, argued that he wasn’t seeking records from the therapist but from his former wife. The court found that the father cannot avoid the effect of the child asserting his privilege against disclosure by seeking the documents from another source besides the therapist. The court further held that this privilege is not absolute and looked to the statute for clarity.
Section 4(a)(3) of the Confidentiality Act provides:
§ 4. (a) The following persons shall be entitled, upon request, to inspect and copy a recipient’s records or any part thereof:
(3) the parents of a recipient who is at least 12 but under 18 years, if the recipient is informed and does not object or if the therapist does not find that there are compelling reasons for denying the access. The parent or guardian who is denied access by either the recipient or the therapist may petition a court for access to the record. Nothing in this paragraph is intended to prohibit the parent or guardian of a recipient who is at least 12 but under 18 years of age from requesting and receiving the following information: current physical and mental condition, diagnosis, treatment needs, services provided, and services needed, including medication, if any [.] (Emphasis added.) 740 ILCS 110/4(a)(3) (West 2018).

The court ruled that the father in this case was entitled to the limited information that is outlined in the statute but nothing more after petitioning the court for that access. The fact that the entire record was disclosed to the mother, or the child representative does not nullify the child’s objection to the same information to the father.

The father also sought records from the therapeutic day school where his child attended asserting that he was entitled to education records under the terms of the Allocation Judgment. The court recognized the ambiguity created by the records kept by a therapeutic school and reasoned as follows:
Section 5(f)(1) of the Student Records Act recognizes the patient-therapist privilege and keeps confidential information communicated in confidence to a psychologist or other psychotherapist, school social worker, school counselor or school psychologist intern who works under the direct supervision of a school social worker, school counselor, or school psychologist. This list of protected communications includes information communicated in confidence to a teacher of an academic subject at a therapeutic school. 105 ILCS 10/5(f)(2) (West 2020). “Construing the provisions of the Student Records Act and the Confidentiality Act harmoniously, we conclude that privileged records and communications under the Confidentiality Act do not include a minor’s grades, grade level, academic assessments, and similar information, even if that child attends a therapeutic day school. Consequently, a trial court cannot deny a parent access under section 4(a)(3) of the Confidentiality Act access to the non-privileged school records of a minor child who attends a therapeutic day school, even if that child, who is at least 12 but under 18 years of age, objects to the parents request to inspect and copy those records. Furthermore, the trial court may conduct an in-camera review to ensure that the child’s therapeutic school’s records do not contain any privileged information concerning the child’s mental health services beyond the limited information regarding the child’s current physical and mental condition, diagnosis, treatment needs, services provided, and services needed, which the parent is entitled to receive. 740 ILCS 110/4(a)(3) (West 2018).

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About MickiMoran

Micki Moran is the founding partner of The Child and Family Law Center, Ltd. She dedicates her practice to providing legal assistance to children and families who are in need of representation in the areas of special education, disability law, juvenile and young adult criminal law, abuse and neglect, guardianship and mental health issues. Micki's practice is founded on the principle that children and their families require and deserve excellent legal representation with a multidisciplinary approach that works with multiple systems of care and creates communities that support and improve the quality of all peoples' lives.
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