Judge Awards Child Custody to State After Medical Disagreement

Although most of our child custody discussions center on the rights of parents after a divorce, a variety of other custody situations also require the help of a family attorney. Maryland residents may be surprised to learn that the state may seize custody of their children because of parents’ medical decisions. In one landmark child custody case in nearby Massachusetts, a judge has decided to award permanent custody of a 15-year-old girl to the state after allegations surfaced of medical child abuse from her parents.

The drawn-out legal battle began after the Department of Children and Families seized custody of the girl in February 2013. A diagnostic dispute had occurred between physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital and nearby Tufts Medical Center. Tufts physicians argued that the girl was afflicted with mitochondrial disease, which is a rare genetic disorder. Physicians at Children’s, however, asserted that the girl’s medical issues — including difficulty walking and swallowing — were largely psychiatric in nature.

The young woman remained hospitalized at Children’s for nearly a year. She has since been moved to a residential facility in another town, despite objections from her parents. Those family members are looking to return the girl to Connecticut.

News reports indicate that the girl’s parents are concerned that she has simply been treated like a piece of property. They say they want their child to return home, though they are so emotional that they cannot yet explain their next steps. Although Massachusetts officials say they want to help the girl return to her home state, a judge in the case has decided that the best interests of the child necessitate treatment at the residential facility.

Parents who are concerned about losing their child custody rights because of unfair government action may benefit from the assistance of a family attorney in Maryland. These professionals may provide additional information for child custody cases that occur within the context of a divorce. Parents have specific legal rights in court, and a Maryland attorney may help protect those rights during child custody disputes.

Source: Boston Globe, “Mass. granted permanent custody of Justina Pelletier” Patricia Wen, Mar. 25, 2014