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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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Can I Have a Mentally Ill Family Member Involuntarily Hospitalized?


Virginia state law has strict requirements in order to have a person involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility. Family members who wish to have a loved one hospitalized against their will must be able to prove:

  • The individual has a mental illness, and because of that illness;
  • There is a substantial likelihood the person will suffer or cause serious physical harm. The person may attempt to intentionally harm himself or others. Alternatively, the individual may have lost the capacity to care for himself.
  • Hospitalization is necessary. Less drastic measures will not be enough to properly care for the person.
  • The individual is unwilling or unable to volunteer for hospitalization. A judge will not order involuntary hospitalization to someone who is willing and capable of voluntarily committing himself.

Who Can Petition to Have a Person Involuntarily Hospitalized?

The petition to involuntarily hospitalize a mentally ill person can be filed by any “responsible person.” Although petitioners in involuntary hospitalization cases are typically family members or treating physicians, any concerned individual with a vested personal interest in this person’s well being can request the hospitalization.

The Involuntary Hospitalization Process in Virginia

A petition for involuntary hospitalization is filed and an in-person assessment is conducted by a Certified Prescreener. The Prescreener will either recommend or not recommend the individual be hospitalized. A Temporary Detention Order (TDO) is then issued by a Magistrate. This order will require the individual be held in a mental health facility for at least one day (but not more than five days) until a commitment hearing can be held.

A Commitment Hearing is held within five days of the issuance of a temporary detention order. This hearing is attended by the individual, the petitioner, treating physicians, mental health professionals, and other witnesses, an independent evaluator, and a court-appointed attorney.

The judge may order a Commitment order, allowing the psychiatric facility to involuntarily hold the individual up to 30 days. The hospital can then discharge the individual at any time, or request the individual be recommitted (this time up to 180 days).

If the judge decides the individual is capable of voluntary admission, he may order Court-Mandated Admission (CMA). A CMA order prevents commitment as long as the individual accepts a minimal amount of treatment. Alternatively, the judge may decide hospitalization is unnecessary and order Mandatory Outpatient Treatment (MOT) instead.

A judge can also decide to dismiss a petition for involuntary hospitalization. Usually based on the recommendation of evaluators and treating physicians, a dismissal removes any obligation of the individual to seek treatment, in-patient or otherwise. The individual can still volunteer for admission, but will not be forced to undergo any form of treatment.

Get Help Today

If you need legal assistance protecting a loved one from himself, contact us today. The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC are ready to help you through this difficult time. The firm’s founder, John Whitbeck, has represented hundreds of petitioners and served individuals as a special justice in commitment cases. Call our office in Leesburg, Virginia at 703-997-4982.




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Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 provides that businesses that offer professional rather than retail services may remain open. Our firm is continuing to operate to ensure you and your family have advocates available for whatever legal issue you face. For clients who prefer, we can arrange meeting by Zoom or other video-conferencing. We are also implementing internal procedures to provide a safe environment in the office. Please contact us at 703-777-1795 or schedule an appointment today!