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After charges filed, child custody cases could be in limbo

When parents face the loss of custody to their state of residence, the court proceedings often include the services of a family evaluator. Some states refer to this position as a child custody specialist or a court mediator, among other terms. In short, however, this role is usually fulfilled by a social worker who is hired by the county to review and report on a family's living scenario and make recommendations on child custody placement. This is a position that carries an enormous amount of power and responsibility, as courts in Maryland and elsewhere will often defer to the opinion given.

In a recent case, a court mediator is charged with multiple crimes in connection to a case that he handled. The charges include falsifying records and child abuse and are connected to a case in which a young boy died. Reports indicate that he was shot with a BB gun, burned with cigarettes and suffered a fractured skull. The child's mother and her boyfriend are charged in his death, but authorities say that the court mediator and several other social workers also share a degree of blame in the boy's death. It is alleged that they received dozens of complaints and reports of abuse concerning the family, but failed to remove the child from the home.

The court mediator resigned from his position in the county where this series of events took place, but he then relocated to another county and obtained a similar position. That left him responsible for completing custody evaluations for many other children, which affected the child custody determinations that were made by the court. As such, a notice has been sent to all of the attorneys who handled those cases, stating that the cases should be given a second look.

This leaves many families in limbo when it comes to their child custody rights. If they lost custody of a child due to a recommendation made by this court mediator, then there may be reason to believe that the recommendation was not completed using the highest standards of professional practice. That could result in multiple child custody cases coming back before the court in which they were originally heard. While this series of events is not playing out in the state of Maryland, the story does demonstrate how easily a custody case between a parent and state agencies can become flawed.

Source: sbsun.com, "L.A. County child abuse case vexes San Bernardino County child custody cases", Joe Nelson, April 20, 2016

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