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Gender-affirming care now an emergency in some Florida custody matters

On Behalf of | May 30, 2023 | Child Custody, Children's Issues, Emergency Relief, Parental Abduction, Relocation, Visitation and Time-Sharing

On May 17, 2023, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill greatly restricting Florida doctors in their ability to give gender-affirming treatment to transgender minors. The law took effect immediately upon signing. Notably for Florida parents and out-of-state parents of kids physically within Florida, the law expands the child-custody jurisdiction of Florida state courts by characterizing the provision of gender-affirming care as a potential emergency.

Basics of the bill

Here we provide a broad overview of the law, followed by a look at the child-custody provisions. This legislation restricts and punishes physicians who provide gender-affirming treatment, rather than targeting parents of trans children as other states have done. It also sharpens adult treatment requirements through detailed doctor-patient informed-consent rules.

The law prohibits “sex-reassignment prescriptions and procedures” for anyone under 18 with potential exceptions for certain young patients already receiving treatment before the law took effect.

Depending on the violation, a doctor – the only kind of medical professional allowed to provide this treatment – may be subject to disciplinary action. A doctor who “willfully or actively” treats a minor commits a third-degree felony, and if authorities arrest the physician, the state automatically suspends their medical license. (Adult treatment without adequate informed consent may subject a doctor to a first-degree misdemeanor charge.)

The law establishes the right to a civil lawsuit for a treatment violation involving a minor that caused “personal injury or death.” The right to sue lasts 20 years from the end of gender-affirming care and allows unlimited punitive damages (those meant to punish the physician).

Revisions to Florida UCCJEA

Florida has enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), along with almost every other state. The UCCJEA creates rules for jurisdiction over child custody and visitation among the various states’ courts when a child moves between states, especially in cases of alleged parental abduction. It includes unique requirements for interstate communication between courts and guidelines for when a court has power to establish, revise or enforce a custody order.

UCCJEA gives a state court temporary emergency jurisdiction over a child who is physically present in the state and either abandoned or in need of protection from “mistreatment or abuse” (or their sibling or parent is). Florida’s new law adds a third emergency condition allowing emergency jurisdiction, “to protect the child because the child has been subjected to or is threatened with being subjected to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures …”

UCCJEA also allows the court to issue a warrant for physical custody, usually ordering law enforcement to remove a child from circumstances where they are at risk of “serious physical harm” or removal from Florida, such as through parental abduction. Florida’s new gender-affirming treatment restriction law provides that serious physical harm includes “being subjected to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures …”


Issues related to trans children can be highly emotional and with these changes in Florida law, people may have serious concerns about their kids. Any Florida parent or parent whose child is in Florida and that parent needs to understand how these changes may impact their child – or is even facing the possibility of an emergency UCCJEA hearing – should seek the advice of a knowledgeable Florida family lawyer as soon as possible.


The LAW OFFICES OF FORREST & Forrest, PLLC represents individuals in Fort Lauderdale in high-asset divorce matters. Daniel Forrest is board-certified family lawyer and mediator serving the South Florida area.

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