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Child custody: Allegations of abuse

Accusations of child abuse are extremely serious, but it is not uncommon for divorcing spouses to try to argue that the other parent is abusive to gain custody. In some cases, the allegations are unfounded, and the courts will not look favorably on a parent who lies or otherwise misrepresents the facts in a custody hearing. If, on the other hand, the allegations are true, there may be an investigation by child protective services, and the results are very likely to factor heavily into the court's final decision.

Law enforcement agencies generally recognize two different types of child abuse, but either can result both in criminal charges and a loss of custody of the child. The first type is what most people think of when they think of child abuse, which is willfully and intentionally hurting a child. This can include both physical and sexual abuse. In these cases, the courts will be looking at the child's medical records, the criminal and arrest records of both parents, as well as interviews with all of those involved and any professionals familiar with the family, such as teachers or counselors.

The second type is more often called child neglect because, instead of being due to a parent's intentional actions, it comes from a parent's negligence. One of the most well-known examples may be accidentally leaving a child who is sleeping in a car when it is too warm. In some cases, the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors may decide not to bring criminal charges against a parent in a case of neglect, but it is very likely to have an effect on the couple's current custody and visitation arrangement.

Whether you are being investigated for allegations of child abuse or neglect or your ex is falsely accusing you of neglect in the midst of a legal battle, a family law attorney can help you understand what may happen and what you can do.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Abuse Cases," accessed July 16, 2015

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