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Unusual child custody case pits father against the state

In a recent custody hearing, a family received a win after more than a year of suffering. The case began after what the family claims is a false accusation of child abuse, and is now near its end after a judge refused to terminate the parental rights of a man accused of harming his infant daughter. The family's child custody battle is winding down, but their story serves as a cautionary tale to parents in Maryland and elsewhere of the dangers of running afoul of social services.

The case began when a father, a commercial pilot, was holding his 11-week-old daughter in his lap. When the infant began to slide, the father instinctively reached out to stop her from falling onto a coffee table. He caught her by the face, and when the family took the baby in to make sure she was unharmed, the medical team discovered bleeding between her brain and skull.

A doctor accused the father of child abuse, and the authorities became involved. That led to a nightmare in which the man was charged with abuse and ultimately convicted. Medical experts testified at his trial that the brain bleeds were the result of a vacuum extraction procedure used during childbirth, and the father passed two polygraph tests focusing on the incident. Nonetheless, he is now finishing a one-year sentence in the case, which is under appeal.

As of the time of this report, he has not seen his baby girl for nearly 500 days. The mother continues to support her husband, and denies any act of abuse. She claims that social workers have continued to harass her, including raiding her home despite the fact that she has never been found to have mistreated her child.

In a recent hearing, a judge refused to terminate the father's parental rights, instead praising him for the commitment he has demonstrated toward his family. While this is certainly a win for the family, it is a bittersweet victory after having lost so much time together based on what they claim was a false allegation of abuse. The story serves as a warning to parents in Maryland and elsewhere of the risk of becoming involved in a child custody struggle with the state agency tasked with child protective services.

Source: wxyz.com, "Judge refuses to terminate parental rights of Joshua Burns", Heather Catallo, July 29, 2015

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