A troubled adult child with her guardian.Mental health issues, including substance abuse disorders, are finally starting to receive the recognition they deserve. Millions of people across the United States suffer from mental health issues. In fact, a recent study estimates that nearly 20% of people in the United States suffer from some form of mental illness.

Parents with adult children who are suffering from mental illness or substance abuse issues have a challenging job. On one hand, you want to be there for your child and preserve their autonomy and ability to overcome their issues on their own. However, on the other hand, as a legal guardian of a troubled adult child, you have an obligation to do what is best for your child, even if it means helping them against their will.

Parents with troubled adult children have a few options they can use to get their children the help they need.

Baker Act

The Florida Baker Act is a law that allows the involuntary commitment of a person who is exhibiting severe symptoms of a mental health disorder. If a loved one is in the middle of a mental health crisis, having them “Baker Acted” may be an option.

Family members cannot make the decision to Baker Act a loved one; however, they can call the police, who may initiate the process. Doctors, judges, and mental health practitioners can also commit a person under the Baker Act. However, before someone can be involuntarily held, there must meet the following criteria:

  • There is evidence that they suffer from a mental illness;
  • Because of their mental illness, they are unwilling to get treatment or do not understand the need for treatment; and
  • Without treatment, the person would likely be a danger to themselves or others.

If your child is Baker Acted, they will be taken to a mental health hospital where two mental health professionals will conduct independent evaluations. If both professionals agree that your child is a danger, they will be placed at a mental health facility for up to 72 hours.

At the end of the 72 hours, your child will be referred to out-patient treatment and released unless someone seeks involuntary placement through the court. If the court determines involuntary placement is necessary, your child could be committed to a mental health facility for up to six months.

The Baker Act covers most mental health conditions. For example, if your child is suicidal, hallucinating, unable to care for themselves, or suffering from severe depression, the Baker Act may get them the help they need to make it safely through their mental health crisis. However, if your adult child suffers from substance abuse issues, the Marchman Act may be a more appropriate alternative.

Marchman Act

The Marchman Act is a Florida law that allows concerned loved ones to petition the court to order their loved ones to undergo a mandatory substance-abuse assessment. If the court determines that your child suffers from a substance-abuse disorder and that they are a risk to themselves or others, it can order them to attend treatment. Anyone who is a spouse, relative, or legal guardian of the troubled adult child can file a Marchman Act petition. Otherwise, three adults who are not related to the child and have first-hand knowledge of their substance-abuse issues can file the petition.

Once you file a Marchman Act petition, the court will either deny the petition, order a hearing within ten days, or, if the child is in immediate danger, send law enforcement out to pick up the child for emergency assessment and stabilization.

If the court orders a hearing, it will hear evidence from both sides to determine whether your child needs treatment. Your child is entitled to have a lawyer present to represent their interests, and if they cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one.

If the court finds that your child is in need of treatment, it can issue a court order requiring they attend. In most cases, Marchman Act petitions result in the person being placed in an open-door facility, meaning they can leave when they choose. The only thing keeping them in treatment is the judge’s order. However, if your child leaves the facility, they would be disobeying a court order and could be subject to contempt proceedings.


While the Baker Act and Marchman Act both provide ways for you to get your adult child the help they need, the process of committing an adult against their will can be an uphill battle. If you are not already a legally appointed guardian of your troubled adult child, pursuing a guardianship petition will make it easier to get them help in the future. However, because the appointment of a guardian seriously impacts a person’s rights, this can also be a challenging hurdle to overcome. Parents of troubled children who do not know they need help or are unwilling to get it should reach out to a Jacksonville guardianship legal practitioner to review their options.

Are You the Legal Guardian of a Troubled Adult Child and Need Assistance Getting Them the Help They Desperately Need?

If you have a child suffering from serious mental health or substance abuse issues, do not give up hope. Certainly, this is an emotional, frustrating, and challenging time; however, the attorneys at Beller & Bustamante, P.L., can help. Our Florida guardianship legal practitioners stay up-to-date on all recent developments pertaining to the growing drug epidemic and work with families across the economic spectrum to get their children the help they need.

With over 30 years of combined experience handling a wide range of estate planning and guardianship matters, our guardianship legal practitioners will go over your options and help you pursue the option that works best for you and your family. To learn more and to schedule a consultation to meet with one of our Jacksonville and guardianship legal practitioners, give us a call or connect with us through our online form.