Abuse and Neglect to Children in a Divorce
Child abuse happens when a parent or care giver of a minor child allows, inflicts or permits physical or sexual abuse or allows a situation where there is a risk of physical injury. Child neglect means a minor child lacks adequate care and is danger of physical or psychological harm.
Child abuse is criminal in most states, and it affect the court’s determination of child custody. A parent who has been convicted or even accused and investigated for child abuse has a tough time getting physical custody of the child and even visitation rights. Once recognized as a convicted abuser, the court frequently requires supervised visitation, if permitting any visitation at all.
Since child abuse carries so much weight in the custody courts, sometimes angry parents wrongfully accuse the other parent. False allegations of abuse carry severe punishment. In fear of losing his or her child in a custody dispute, a parent foolishly makes false allegations of abuse, only to find that these false allegations result in the loss of parental rights.
However, a parent who legitimately suspects that his or her spouse is abusing a child should take the child for medical treatment and document the episode.
Child neglect is often substantiated by hearsay in court. Unlike abuse that can leave emotional and physical scars and can be more easily documented, child neglect, unless it is chronic, may go unnoticed. Neglect ranges from not brushing a child’s teeth to not providing proper medical care. Sometimes the line between child neglect and child abuse is hard to draw, and many acts of neglect can be argued as abuse in court.
Stating neglect actions by the other parent, like forgetting sunscreen, or keeping the child up late at night, sometimes opens a can of worms pointlessly.
Common Questions and Answers
Q. What should parents never do in the case of contested custody?
A. Neither parent should ever falsely allege that his or her estranged partner abused or neglected the child. False allegations carry penalties, not the least of which is the forfeiture of visitation rights.
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CHILDREN’S REACTION – A child’s adjustment to divorce depends upon (1) the quality of their relationship with each parent before the divorce, (2) the intensity and duration of the parental conflict, and (3) the parents' ability to focus on the needs of the children in the divorce.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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