Child Abuse Law

Physical Child Abuse

Child abuse accusations are serious. A parent accused of child abuse can face restraining orders, supervised visitation, and criminal consequences. It is important to understand child abuse laws in your state to protect your child and yourself.

If you have questions about your specific situation, you can speak with an experienced child abuse attorney familiar with physical abuse laws in your state. You may also need to speak with a criminal defense attorney for legal advice if you are accused of child abuse.

What Is Physical Child Abuse?

What is considered physical child abuse is not always obvious. Physical abuse can actually be a bit nuanced. Not all physical discipline is automatically considered physical abuse. For instance, not all spanking is considered abuse, but inappropriate spanking can be physical abuse.

Lightly swatting a child on the butt with an open palm may not be considered child abuse or physical abuse. However, taking a belt or a tree switch and swatting a child to the point where the child has bruises or marks could be considered abuse.

Some of the obvious child abuse examples could be hitting a child with a closed fist or intentionally burning a child. Violently shaking a young child could also be considered abuse.

What Are Signs of Child Abuse?

Possible signs of physical child abuse are not always easy to see. If you suspect child abuse, report it to local authorities. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), possible signs of physical child abuse include:

  • Having unexplained burns, bruises, or broken bones
  • Fading bruises or marks after a school absence
  • Seeming frightened of their parents
  • Shrinking back at the approach of other adults
  • Having a parent with a history of committing domestic violence

Potential Consequences of Physical Child Abuse

If you’re suspected of abusing your child, you could face criminal and civil consequences. Criminal charges for child abuse can involve jail time and a criminal record. Civil consequences could mean domestic abuse protective orders and losing custody of your child.

Child Custody Consequences

You may temporarily or permanently lose child custody after charges of abuse. The non-abusive parent or a family member may even be able to get sole custody. You could lose certain visitation rights and parenting time rights. Any visitation may have to be in a supervised visitation setting.

Supervised visitation could take place in a more formal setting instead of your own home. In this situation, there are neutral third parties whose job is to monitor and record the visit and report any concerns. Supervised visitation may also be with a mutually agreed upon third-party, such as a trusted friend or family member. Generally, the supervisor must remain in the presence of you and your child at all times during the visit.

If social services are involved, you may be given a plan to get joint custody back. If the other parent took you to court to get custody of the child, the judge may also put in the new custody order what you need to do to regain custody rights. Some conditions may include domestic violence and mental health assessments.

The family court judge may be looking to see if you need any interventions, such as batterer’s intervention programs or mental health treatment. In some cases, a parent may have an undiagnosed mental health issue, which can lead to uncontrolled anger management problems. Keep in mind, the family court judge will make custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child and ensuring parents are mentally and physically stable.

Criminal Consequences of Abuse

You could also find yourself under criminal investigations for child physical abuse. A criminal charge can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on your state’s criminal laws on family violence.

If the abuse occurred by someone other than a parent, like another household member, friend, or teacher, it is important to cooperate with the investigation. However, if you think you may be accused of abuse, make sure you understand your right to talk to an attorney before you talk to the police.

What Can You Do After Reported Child Abuse?

Courts take child abuse, whether physical abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual abuse, seriously. If you’re in family court and court orders require you to do certain things before getting custody and you fail to complete those tasks, you may be denied custody rights.

If your child was removed from your care and placed in foster care, it is possible you will lose your parental rights. At a certain point in time, social services may ask to terminate your parental rights so your child can be placed for adoption. This is often the last resort.

Talk to a family law attorney right away if you are worried about losing custody of your child. Your lawyer can explain your rights and help you get your parenting rights back after accusations of physical child abuse.

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