Unfortunately, there is a big difference between knowing or suspecting your child is being abused and being able to prove it in family court. The definition of "child abuse" can be broad and difficult to define. There are abuse laws for every state that dictate the definition of abuse in that state.
In order to prove that a child is being abused, you'll have to provide evidence according to the definition of child abuse in your state. Follow this link if you want more information about how a he said she said scenario muddles up a child abuse case. You'll need solid proof when you're bringing your case to a lawyer. Now let’s go over the forms of child abuse to help you determine whether or not you have a valid, provable case.
Emotional Child Abuse
The most common abuse inflicted upon children is emotional abuse. This type of severe mistreatment can take several forms. Abandonment, verbal abuse, and rejection, as well as harsh parenting styles fall under the category of emotional abuse.
Neglect is also a form of emotional abuse. Neglect occurs when a parent or guardian does not attend to the needs of a child. All forms of abuse fall into the "neglect" category in some way. For instance, a parent that is always yelling at a child is neglecting to consider the damage this does to the child's mind and emotions. Spanking a child infringes upon the child's right to grow up in a safe environment.
According to the courts, however, neglect is classified as not providing the child's basic needs, which include housing, food, medical care, supervision and education.
There is one clear definition for physical abuse. Slapping, hitting, or causing any type of physical pain to a child is illegal. Physical child abuse falls under the same regulations pertaining to domestic abuse. This is the easiest type of abuse to prove in a family court case.
How to Prove Child Abuse In Family Court
Before you take a child abuse case to court, make sure you document everything. Every time you notice your child is behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with their personality, such as being withdrawn, crying more, or expressing extreme anger, this could be a sign that your child is being abused.
If you see bruises, cuts, or welts on your child, document this and bring the evidence to court. Write all instances of abuse down and include the date. You should also take photos and videos to present in court.
Make sure your child's doctor is aware of the abuse evidence so they can provide their professional opinion to further substantiate your evidence. Another thing you’ll want to do is hire a qualified family law attorney who is committed to protecting the best interests of your child and modify your custody arrangements.
Imminent Danger and Jeopardy As It Relates to Child Abuse
If you think your child is in danger of being physically or verbally harmed, the courts classify this as "imminent danger." For instance, if your child comes back from visiting their other parent with a bruise or cut and this injury was caused by your ex-spouse's new partner, your child is in danger of receiving this abuse again during the next visitation.
If your child is in jeopardy of being abused, this means that abuse is possible, but it may not have occurred yet. If your ex-spouse's new partner was previously convicted of child abuse, pedophilia, or neglect, your child could possibly receive abuse from this person.
Determining Which Parent Is Fit to Raise the Child
In any of these situations, you have to go to court so the judge can determine which parent is fit to raise the child. Remember that when you present evidence to prove that your ex-spouse or ex-spouse's partner is abusive, you'll also have to prove that you are fit to take care of your child. If you currently have joint custody and want sole custody of your child, you may have to make some life changes.
You can improve your chances of sole custody by taking a parenting class during your divorce, even if the class is not required. Refrain from using drugs and take a drug test monthly, and keep all of your results to provide as proof in court. If you're not working or you're working part-time, get a job that will give you the financial means to support your child.
It's also a good idea not to live with your new girlfriend or boyfriend while your child is living in the home. It's perfectly fine to date, but your child shouldn't be a part of your adult relationships.
If you suspect that your child is being abused or you want to report abuse, you can find much of the information you need at Child Welfare Information Gateway. Proving child abuse in court can be challenging in some instances, but if you take the proper steps, you can save your child from further mistreatment.