Child abuse is a situation no parent ever wants to face. Suddenly, you realize your child may be suffering abuse at the hands of your former spouse or a new adult in that partner’s life. You may feel angry, helpless, or afraid. However, there are steps you can take to help your child and settle the situation positively.
- Calm down. It is extremely difficult to hear a child recount stories of abuse when visiting the “other parent,” but be objective if at all possible. Children sometimes exaggerate what may be normal discipline when they are angry. It is important to support your child in disclosing information, but keep your wits and look for supporting evidence as well. Do not question your child’s disclosure, but look for bruising, torn clothing, or other physical evidence. You should also observe your child’s behavior and look for changes such as withdrawal or “acting out.”
- Establish the facts. You must document each and every aspect of an abuse case if you are to build a legal case against your former spouse. Write down any disclosures or record them if possible. Collect medical records for your child, especially if there have been hospital emergency room visits due to injuries. Ask for written witness statements if such are available. The more documentation you have, the better your chances of winning a case against your former spouse.
- Discuss the abuse with your former spouse if appropriate. If you have the type of relationship with your former spouse that will allow you to talk, and if the abuse disclosure has to do with a new boyfriend or girlfriend in that person’s life, it may be appropriate to talk to your former spouse about the disclosure. On the other hand, this is a judgment call and can easily backfire if the partner is disbelieving or becomes angry.
- Hire an attorney. An attorney can represent you and can help you gather documentation and evidence to use in a court case if you must seek a modification of custody due to the abuse. An attorney can also act as a go-between for you and your former spouse if your communication is not friendly.
Abuse is a situation that should be dealt with immediately and not put off. A California divorce attorney may be able to help you find the right way to handle the abuse situation and support your child through what could be a very emotionally distressing time.