Intimate photograph subject of court hearing

Father holding sick child in the shower
The photo went viral on Facebook last year (Heather Whitten)

The photographer who snapped a picture of her husband holding his sick child in the shower is being taken to court for "neglectful parenting".

The intimate photograph, which went viral on Facebook early last year, has become the subject of a legal battle with the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

Heather Whitten, the child's mother, took the photo in November 2014, showing her husband Thomas cradling their then-one-year-old son Fox in a cold shower. Fox had salmonella poisoning, and was suffering from both a high fever and diarrhoea.

A viewer of the photograph went beyond reporting the photo on Facebook - they instead filed a complaint with the local authorities.

In a statement online Ms Whitten says one of the investigators took a strong stance on the case, spending several months "trying to have me seen as an immodest, neglectful and abusive mother".

Ms Whitten claims the investigator based her opinions around a single interview, during which Ms Whitten breastfed one of her twins. 

"The only claim she was able to suggest be substantiated against me [and me alone] was that I neglected to supervise our children by allowing their images to be online and so put them at an unreasonable risk of harm. This goes against Arizona's very definition of neglect and encroaches on my right as an artist to share my work with the public." Ms Whitten wrote.

If the claim is proven, Ms Whitten will be added to Arizona's Central Registry for 25 years, marking the end of her ability to adopt, foster, or even work with children as a photographer.

There is currently a Change.org petition with nearly 20,000 signatures in support of Whitten. An administrative hearing will be held on February 3 (local time).

Newshub.