There comes a time for all parents when we must determine how to properly discipline our children. Not only must we choose a punishment that will work, but we must also be mindful of punishment that may be too harsh. In a recent case, the Department of Children and Family services initiated a case against a Los Angeles mother who spanked her children on the buttocks with her bare hand and with a sandal. The Juvenile court found that dependency jurisdiction existed stating that “hitting children with shoes is not a proper form of discipline, and it’s physical abuse.”’
The Court of Appeals, however, found that spanking is not a per se form of abuse. While this case is not an open invitation to spank your child, it does illustrate the court’s adherence to the long standing principle in California that parents have a right to “reasonably discipline his or her child.” But how do we know when our form of punishment is reasonable and not child abuse? The court noted three factors that must be taken into account by a court before making a finding of child abuse, based on spanking or any other form of discipline:
(1) Whether the parent’s conduct is genuinely disciplinary
(2) Whether the punishment is necessary (warranted by the circumstances); and
(3) Whether the amount of punishment was reasonable or excessive.
This standard allows for parents to reasonably discipline their children while protecting children from disguised abuse. Disciplining a child, may therefore be mere punishment or abuse, all depending on the circumstances.
If you have questions about the impact of child abuse allegations in your child custody matter, contact the Certified Family Law Specialists at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri for further information. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
IN RE D.M., 242 Cal. App 4th 634 (2d Dist. 2015)