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FAQ: Unified Family Court

Mental Health

Mental Health - (561) 355-6511

Baker Act

Marchman Act

Incapacity Proceeding


Baker Act

What is the Baker Act?

Chapter 394 of the Florida Statutes is known as the Baker Act or the Florida Mental Health Act. A Baker Act proceeding is a means of providing an individual with emergency service for mental health evaluation (examination) and/or treatment (placement).

Who can petition the court to initiate an Involuntary Baker Act Examination?

Any individual who is of age and who has witnessed the actions of a person and believes that person to be a threat to themselves or others and is willing to give testimony to that, can file a petition for Involuntary Examination.

How do I petition the court for an Involuntary Baker Act Examination? 

Appear in person at the Clerk & Comptroller's office to complete a sworn affidavit/petition. 

  • Arrive at the office by 3:30 PM to allow time for processing.
  • Provide information as to the respondent’s (person subject to the Baker Act) behavior, identification and location.
  • If the emergency services are required after hours, on the weekend or on a holiday, please contact your local law enforcement who shall take the person who appears to meet the criteria for involuntary examination into custody and deliver the person to an appropriate facility or the nearest facility within the designated receiving system for an involuntary examination. (F.S. 394.462(2)(a)2.

What happens after the petition is completed and filed with the clerk?

  • The clerk initiates a court case
  • The file is taken to the presiding Magistrate for review
  • The Magistrate makes a recommendation to the court to grant or deny the petition
  • If the person meets the criteria for the Baker Act, the judge signs an order granting the petition
  • Certified copies of the order are delivered to the Warrant’s Division of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
  • The respondent is picked up and taken to the hospital or mental health facility by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office for an evaluation
  • A person may be held for up to 72 hours for an evaluation
  • The evaluation may result in authorized staff at the facility petitioning the court for an Involuntary Baker Act Treatment/Placement order
  • If the order for treatment is granted by the court, the person may be held at the facility for up to 6 months for treatment

Marchman Act

What is the Marchman Act?

Chapter 397 of the Florida Statutes is known as the "Hal S. Marchman Alcohol and Other Drug Services Act of 1993." The Marchman Act provides for the involuntary or voluntary assessment, stabilization and treatment of a person abusing or addicted to drugs or alcohol.  The first step is a substance abuse assessment.  If the assessment indicates treatment is needed, the second step is providing court ordered treatment.

Who can file a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and/or Treatment?

The petition for an adult may be filed by the following:

  • a spouse
  • a guardian
  • any relative
  • a private practitioner
  • a director of a licensed service provider or designee (with power of attorney)
  • any three adults with personal knowledge of the person’s substance abuse

 For a minor, the petition may be filed by:

  • a parent
  • a legal guardian or custodian
  • a licensed service provider

How do I petition the court for an Involuntary Marchman Act Assessment?

  • Appear in person at the Clerk & Comptroller's office to complete a sworn affidavit/petition for both assessment and treatment 
  • Provide information as to the person's behavior, identification and location

What happens after the petitions are completed and filed with the clerk?

  • The clerk initiates a court case for the involuntary assessment portion of the process and the case is set for hearing within 10 days
  • If the subject of the Marchman Act is a minor, the court also appoints an attorney to represent the minor
  • The respondent is served with the petition and notice of hearing by the Sheriff’s Office
    • The petitioner cannot accept service for the respondent
    • Service can be left for the respondent with someone living at the same address, excluding the petitioner
  • If the respondent is homeless, a process server can be hired to locate and serve the individual.  Fees start at $25.
  • Testimony is given at the hearing for involuntary assessment
  • If the person meets the criteria for a Marchman Act assessment, the judge signs an order granting the petition and setting the appointment for assessment
  • If the respondent is present at the hearing, the court gives them the opportunity to appear voluntarily at the appointment
  • If the respondent was served but is not present at the hearing or does not show up for the court ordered assessment appointment, the court orders them to be picked up and taken for assessment by the Sheriff’s Office

What happens after the assessment?

  • Within 5 days, the court must receive the written assessment from the service provider and, if the criteria for treatment is met, the Petition for Involuntary Treatment is created.
  • A treatment hearing is scheduled within 10 days after the report is received
  • The respondent will be served a summons to appear in court at the scheduled the hearing date
  • The Petitioner will be mailed a notice to appear at the hearing
  • At the hearing, the Magistrate may order a minimum of 60 days treatment that the individual must complete; the facility may petition for an extension of treatment
  • Treatment facilities are not locked down; if the respondent leaves treatment, the facility will notify the court and a status conference hearing may be set. If the respondent does not appear at this hearing, a show cause hearing may be set.  If the respondent does not appear for the show cause hearing, the court may find the respondent in contempt of court.

Incapacity Proceeding

What is an Incapacity Proceeding?

It is usually initiated as the first step in the process of establishing a guardianship. By Florida law, this procedure requires an attorney.

What is the fee for the Petition to Determine Incapacity?

See Fees and Costs for current fees. There is an additional fee for the guardianship proceeding.


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