Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Kentucky Child Abuse Laws

Of all the assault-related crimes, child abuse cases can be the most heart-wrenching. Although most people never want to see a child suffer, child abuse and neglect are far too common in the U.S., including in Kentucky. Whether it's parents with drug addiction problems, overwhelmed guardians, or grandparents raising their grandkids the way they were raised, if a child is being harmed by their caretakers, everyone in Kentucky has the duty to report that abuse to the authorities.

For more on child abuse crimes and reporting, see the following table on Kentucky child abuse laws.

Code Sections Kentucky Revised Statutes Sections:
508.100 – Criminal Abuse in the First Degree
508.110 – Criminal Abuse in the Second Degree
508.120 – Criminal Abuse in the Third Degree
Chapter 620 – Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse
What Constitutes Abuse? Criminal (child) abuse is divided into three degrees based on the mental state during the abuse:
  • First Degree – Intentionally doing any of the following to a person under 12 or who’s physically or mentally helpless or permitting another to do so when the defendant has custody of the child or disabled adult:
    • Causing serious physical injury
    • Placing a child in a situation that may cause serious physical injury or torturing
    • Cruelly confining or punishing
  • Second Degree – Same as first degree except the abuse is done “wantonly” meaning the defendant was aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that something may occur and consciously disregards it
  • Third Degree – Same as above except abuse is done “recklessly” or fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that something will occur, the failure to perceive must be a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would observe

A person can also be charged with assault, sexual abuse, kidnapping, etc. depending on the circumstances of the abuse.

Child abuse under the dependency laws (where you can lose your child to the state) is defined as inflicting physical or emotional injury on a child, creating a risk of physical or emotional injury (non-accidental), engaging in a pattern of inability to parent due to drug or alcohol abuse, committing or allowing another to sexually abuse or prostitute the child, abandoning the child, or not providing a child with adequate care, food, clothing, shelter, education, or medical care.

Criminal Penalty for Child Abuse Crimes in Kentucky are punished based on the felony or misdemeanor assault level. Child or criminal abuse is punished by degree as follows:

After three or more assault in the fourth degree (intentionally or recklessly physically injuring another, usually a Class A misdemeanor) in 5 years when the victim(s) are family members can result in the penalty being upgraded to a Class D Felony. Family members include a child or stepchild and any parent or person living in the same household as the child.

A defendant may also be ordered to pay restitution or pay back any financial setbacks to a victim.

Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse Everyone, regardless of his or her job, is required to report child abuse. Kentucky is one of 16 states that require everyone to report abuse, but also have laws requiring people in certain jobs (doctors, nurses, cops, childcare workers, etc.) who must report.
Basis of Report of Abuse or Neglect You must report child abuse if you know or has reasonable cause to believe that child is being neglected, abused, dependent, or being trafficked (forced into labor or sexual slavery).
Where to Report Child Abuse You can report the suspected or seen abuse or neglect verbally or in writing to the local police department, the Department of Kentucky State Police, the Cabinet for Health and Human Services at 1-877-597-2331 (24 hours a day), the Commonwealth’s attorney, or county attorney.
Penalty for Failure to Report Intentionally failing to report child abuse is a Class B misdemeanor for the first offense, a Class A misdemeanor for the second offense, and a Class D Felony for each subsequent offense.

If you’re facing a child abuse criminal charge, you should speak to an experienced Kentucky criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Alternatively, if you’ve been accused of abusing your child by the state child protection workers and need to go to dependency court to defend yourself, you should consult with experienced Kentucky family law attorneys.

Note: Because state laws change regularly, it’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by conducting your own legal research or contacting a knowledgeable attorney.

Research the Law

Related Resources

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex criminal defense situations usually require a lawyer
  • Defense attorneys can help protect your rights
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties

Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions. Many Kentucky attorneys offer free consultations.


 If you need an attorney, find one right now.

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options