Domestic Violence FAQs

Removal of Children by Welfare Officials – Permanent or Temporary?

When welfare officials remove children from their parents, the objective is to correct the reasons that caused the removal and to reunite the family after the correction. The court will consider many factors including the nature of the deficiency or bad conduct of the parents, the frequency of the events, the efforts taken by the parents to correct the situation and the time required to correct the situation. For example, if the parents make no effort to improve the situation or the neglect is extremely severe, then the court can order termination of parental rights. Once the parental rights are terminated, there is no legal relationship between the children and the parents and the children may be adopted by another family.

What is child neglect?

Child neglect refers to the situation where the parents or legal guardians intentionally ignore or do not provide for the basic needs of the child including food, clothing, shelter, health care and supervision. It is also referred to as child endangerment.

What persons and what types of actions are covered by child abuse laws?

When an adult abuses children in his or her care, it is a criminal offence. An adult include parents, legal guardians, foster parents, family members, and other adults in the home and even baby sitters. An adult supervising a child cannot go beyond reasonable physical punishment. For example if an adult beats a child so severely that the child needs medical care, then that adult breaks the law. Child abuse not only includes physical abuse but other forms of cruelty and mental torture such as extreme humiliation of the child.

An adult need not personally commit the act to be guilty of child abuse, an adult who has legal responsibility of the child will be guilty of child abuse if he or she fails to protect the child from the abuser.

How does one report a suspected case of child abuse?

Many states have a toll free child abuse hotline. You can also report suspected cases of child abuse to the state or county department dealing with children’s issues or human services. In case of emergency, you can always call the police.

Duty to Report

Certain people have a legal duty to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Such persons include teachers, doctors, physicians, nurses, child care providers and social workers. A person who has this legal duty but fails to do so will be subject to criminal prosecution. States also encourage people such as other family members and neighbors who are aware of child abuse to report the cases. Many states have set up child abuse hotlines for this purpose. Individuals who report such cases in good faith are generally given immunity against civil lawsuits by the parents.

Legal remedies for domestic violence victims

Victims of domestic violence have several remedies. All states have a provision for protective order. The victim can petition the court for a protective order against the abusers ordering the abuser to cease the abuse or harassment. The order will also ask the abuser to stay away from the victim, the victim’s place of residence and work. Violation of a protective order is a criminal offense.

In many states, even dating partners have similar rights to apply for protective order.

What constitutes domestic violence?

Domestic violence is not limited to physical attacks alone. It also includes emotional abuse, financial abuse, psychological abuse, stalking and much more. Harassing phone calls, causing disturbances at the victim’s workplace, threatening the victim or the victim’s family member, destroying property are all examples of domestic violence.

How effective is a protective order against domestic violence?

Protective orders are sometime very effective. Research has shown that protective orders or arrest can significantly lower the chances of future domestic violence by the same person. When the abusers realize that the law will deal firmly with domestic violence, he or she is deterred from further acts of domestic violence. A protective order however does not guarantee safety or protection. Many abusers continue their violent activities despite protective orders. The legal system cannot completely prevent domestic violence. It can only offer limited protection to the victim.

Seeking Help

If you are being subject to domestic violence, you should contact the police or call 911. There is a general belief that the police do not take domestic violence complaints seriously. This may be true in some cases but overall the police deal with domestic violence professionally. Victims can also contact the local office of the district or state attorney for advice. There are many social service organizations, crisis intervention programs and clinic that offer assistance to domestic violence victims. Many such organizations and groups are listed in the yellow pages.

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