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Child custody dispute over poppy seed bagel drug test settled

In Maryland and across the country, most child custody cases revolve around divorces and deciding which parent should be responsible for raising the children most of the time, or in deciding whether a shared parenting plan may be beneficial. Sometimes, however, a child custody dispute can involve the parents pitted against a local governmental agency. This proved to be the case for a couple in another state who lost custody of their newborn child temporarily soon after her birth.

Officials alleged that the woman tested positive for opiate usage, despite the fact that the hospital test measured at a much lower standard than what is used for federal workplace testing. The new mother and father lost custody of their child just three days after the birth. They pleaded their case over the next several days, pointing out that the poppy seed bagel the woman had ingested just one day before giving birth could well have caused her to test at the extremely low level which showed up in her system.

The woman ultimately pursued a civil lawsuit against both the hospital and the county for improperly removing custody of her child. She recently settled the lawsuit in the amount of $143,500, although she indicated that the proposed policy changes to be made are what is most important to her. She hopes to make sure that no other parents have to go through the ordeal that she has had to endure.

One of these policy changes is that the hospital at the heart of the child custody dispute will no longer alert authorities if a mother tests positive but a baby does not. The county youth services agency responsible for removing the infant will also stop taking children away from their parents after such an allegation until and unless they actually speak with the parents first. Maryland individuals who are going through their own child custody issues may wish to fully research their rights under the law and make sure that they are being upheld, and that their children’s best interests are truly being protected.

Source: 90.5 WESA, “Policies Change as Part of Poppy Seed Child Custody Settlement,” Mark Nootbaar, July 2, 2013

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