Welcome to the Child Abuse section of FindLaw's Family Law Center. Here you will find information on identifying, preventing, and reporting child abuse, as well as state-specific child abuse laws and resources. Learn who is required by law to report suspicion of child abuse, along with how to avoid making false allegations of child abuse.
Whether you're looking for general information on how the law can help protect children from abuse or for specifics on how to properly report abuse, you've come to the right place.
What Is Child Abuse and Neglect?
Child abuse is the physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse of a person who is under the age of majority. In addition to actions towards the child that cause harm, there can also be inaction that results in criminal charges.
For example, leaving a two year old at home alone while you go to work for eight hours could be considered neglect because no one is there to supervise, feed, diaper, and ensure the child's safety from other dangers like pools or fire. Every state prosecutes child abuse and neglect, and these crimes are taken quite seriously. To learn more, see the background and history articles in this Child Abuse section.
What Is a Child Abuse Case?
There are two distinct aspects or types of child abuse cases. First, there are criminal cases related to crimes committed against a child, from sexual molestation to assault. These cases can result in incarceration, fines, and possibly termination of parental rights.
Other child abuse cases are generally in the local family or children's court. The state, often through state Child Protective Services (CPS), can temporarily or permanently remove a child from a parent's home for child abuse and neglect in that home. This section describes child abuses cases in further detail.
Child Abuse Laws
Each state has different laws regarding how child abuse and neglect are defined and who must report suspected or observed child abuse or neglect. If you're a medical professional or school employee, your employer has probably given you training about mandatory reporting. However, some states require everyone to report suspected child abuse.
Some individuals may not realize they must report child abuse, like a religious leader or an in-home day care provider. To learn more about the law in your state, including whether you are mandated to report child abuse, check out the Child Abuse Laws section.
Child Abuse Resources
Perhaps you or a loved one is involved in a child abuse case right now. Having a child abuse case brought against you or making a child abuse report can be a very emotional experience. You want to make sure you have done everything required of you to the best of your ability.
Otherwise, there may be serious consequences, such as losing custody of your child or fines for failure to report. Fortunately, the Child Abuse Resources section includes links to state-specific resources that can help you know what to do if you suspect a child in your life is being abused.
Getting Legal Help
If you still feel you need help after reading the articles below, it may be time to hire an attorney. If your child abuse case involves a criminal charge, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney. For other cases, you will want to speak to a family law attorney who works on child abuse and dependency cases.