What is Considered Child Abuse and Neglect?

March 27, 2024 | By Doppelt and Forney
What is Considered Child Abuse and Neglect?

San Diego has five courts which hear divorce, paternity and legal separation cases and make orders for custody and visitation. The court houses are located in downtown San Diego [two court houses] one in El Cajon, one in Chula Vista and one in Vista.

There are severe consequences to a custody and visitation order if a finding of child abuse, child neglect or sexual abuse is made by the San Diego Judge. Each state has its own interpretation of child abuse and neglect where the minimum standards are set by Federal Law.

What are Common Forms of Child Abuse and Neglect?

Each state has the liberty to define child abuse and neglect provided it falls within the minimum standards laid down by the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). San Diego follows the federal law however the San Diego Judges have discretion in the finding of the factual basis. In many cases in San Diego, the issue comes to "she said/he said" and there is no evidence.

In some cases, there is evidence such as police reports, pictures, witnesses, substantiated allegations by San Diego CPS and other forms of evidence. If you believe your child is being molested, neglected or abused, it your legal duty and obligation to protect your child. It is critical to have the true facts as making a false allegation can "boomerang" and be used against you.

For example, a finding by the Judge of a false allegation of sexual molest can be the basis for a transfer of primary physical custody as well as sanctions in the form of monetary compensation. Getting to the "truth" is often harder than it would seem.

California courts, including those in San Diego, consider four major forms of maltreatment - neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse as child abuse. While these forms of maltreatment can be found in isolation, many times they are discovered in combination. Many states consider parental substance abuse and abandonment a form of child abuse and neglect as well however this is a factual finding.

Here are some examples which might be considered by a San Diego Judge in making a parenting order and parenting plan. This list is not all inclusive.

  1. Neglect is used to describe failure by a parent, caregiver, or a guardian to provide a child with its basic needs. Neglect could be physical, medical, educational or emotional. When a child's safety or health is at risk, child welfare might be called upon to intervene.
  2. Physical abuse covers physical injury which is non-accidental and is caused by beating, punching, biting, kicking, or other intentional forms of physical violence. Injuries resulting from such acts of physical violence are considered physical abuse whether deliberate or otherwise. For some parents, the use of corporal punishment such as "spanking" is used when the parties are married to discipline their children. This may or may not be child abuse however, when the parents are divorcing or separated then the "rules" often change. It is not recommended to use corporal punishment on a child during a divorce, legal separation or paternity action in San Diego as this may be used to form the basis of a finding of child abuse. What parents agree to when they are together many times is not what they agree to when they are no longer living together and tension escalates.
  3. Sexual abuse encompasses such activities such as fondling of a child's genitals, incest, rape, penetration, sodomy, exploitation through prostitution, and indecent exposure by a parent of caregiver. It also includes use of the child for the production of pornographic materials.
  4. Psychological or emotional abuse is a systematic behavioral pattern which damages a child's sense of self-esteem and its emotional development. Emotional abuse can take the form of depriving a child of love, guidance or support, or berating it with continuous threats, criticism, or rejection. Emotional abuse may be hard to prove in the absence of mental injury or harm inflicted on the child. Emotional abuse invariably reveals itself when other forms of abuse are discovered.
  5. Abandonment is a situation where a parent's whereabouts or identity is not known and the child is left to fend for itself. It also describes a situation where a parent does not maintain contact or provide support to the child for a significant length of time.
  6. Substance abuse takes many different forms such as the below however this is only a partial list and many other activities can be considered substance abuse:
    1. A mother's use of an illegal drug or substance during pregnancy, placing the unborn child at risk.
    2. Manufacture of certain drugs which the child can observe.
    3. Providing a child with an illegal drug or alcohol, of selling or distributing such substance to a child.
    4. Use by the caregiver of an addictive substance to a degree that it impairs his/her ability to provide adequate care for the child.

A Law Firm That Knows This Arena

Doppelt and Forney, APLC is a family law firm in San Diego with experience in dealing with family law matters. Among the many issues they practice are child custody due to child neglect and abuse; child support and visitation rights. They also handle divorces, legal separations, pre-nuptial agreements, and others.

If you have a family law issue of any sort to resolve, make a short phone call to set up a free, introductory 30-minute virtual consultation.