The same types of legal protection are available to children as to adults, such as Restraining Orders or Orders of Protection. As the parent, it is your responsibility to bring these actions on behalf of your children when necessary. The same procedures described above apply to children’s Restraining Orders. Click here for additional resources.
In addition, suspected child abuse should be reported to the child’s pediatrician and the police. As a parent, you must protect your child, but the reasons for reporting abuse to your child’s doctor and the police also include protecting yourself legally. All states have laws which require parents to protect children, and by failing to make the proper reports to authorities and to seek proper medical treatment for your child, you put yourself at risk of being charged with child abuse or neglect. Your child’s teachers, daycare providers and doctors are also all required to report suspected abuse. Failing to protect your children against abuse or failure to seek proper treatment for them when they’ve been abused may be interpreted as neglect on your part. In the worst case scenario, you could lose custody and your children placed in the protective care of the state.
Should Any Child Involved in a Violent Family be Forbidden to See the Offending Parent?
The court has the power to order visitation even for a parent who has abused or threatened to abuse a child. Before a court does so, however, it typically orders a family study to be performed by either the Family Relations Office or a psychological evaluator. This procedure is described in depth in Chapter 9. Once the family has been evaluated, the court may still order visitation, depending upon the outcome of the evaluation. You can be confident that the court will do its utmost to assure that the children are not placed in a dangerous situation as a result of court orders.
There are many opportunities for the court to put safeguards in place in the event it decides that it’s in the children’s best interests to visit with a parent who has been abusive in the past. If visitation is to take place, insist on supervised visitation. Click here for another article on violence, children and divorce.
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
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