Child and Family Law Journal

Child and Family Law Journal


Elaina Larson


Since the COVID-19 pandemic and previous years, the mental health and substance abuse crises in Florida are growing at an unprecedented rate.1 With substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment as a substantial roadblock, the Florida courts are reluctant to adequately address the mental health and substance abuse needs of individuals.2 This issue is especially difficult in cases involving the termination of parental rights, leaving children in damaging environments with unfit parents suffering from severe mental illness and substance abuse.3 To prevent children from growing up under negative conditions and developing mental health problems as well, the Florida courts ought to place heavier weight on mental illness and substance abuse factors when assessing parental capacity. The Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse seeks to push Florida’s mental health law reform, so individuals can have better access to mental health services.4 However, reform alone is not enough to ensure adequate mental health treatment since necessary extension of such treatment is determined by mental health courts.5

This Note advocates for a bright-line standard for Florida courts to evaluate mental illness and substance abuse factors in determining whether to terminate parental rights, while considering the severity of the mental condition. Accordingly, prioritizing a child’s best interests and relevant judicial knowledge over the subject matter become an important role in termination proceedings.



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