An issue when faced with whether to “sign voluntary” arises when deciding if this is the best and fastest route to discharge.

Recently, a concerned parent and I discussed this issue. This parent believed that “signing voluntary” and immediately requesting discharge would necessarily result in the child seeing a physician within 24 hours who would have to discharge the child. It is not uncommon for Baker Act receiving facilities to mislead, intentionally or not, to give incorrect legal information about discharging a voluntary patient.

According to statutes, a person can be switched again from voluntary to involuntary and a new clock starts. The old 72-hour clock is not in effect as soon as the person signs voluntary. When the “voluntary” patient requests discharge, a new 2 court working day clock starts before a petition to the court has to be filed. The formerly “voluntary” patient can be held. This is not the same as “re-Baker Acting.” There is no such thing, although that term is used in some facilities.

“Signing voluntary” may cause the length of time in a Baker Act receiving facility to increase. However, it might shorten the time to discharge too. The decision whether to “sign voluntary” comes down to a gamble. To think about whether to do it, you probably should consider your experiences with the facility thus far.

For minors, only judicial decision can make a minor voluntary. (Not only the parent.) A court hearing rarely happens, and most facilities proceed with only a parent’s permission for the child to be “voluntary.”