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 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).