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How is child abuse defined under the law?

Most states define child abuse as any type of cruelty against a child. This is not limited just to physical abuse, but includes mental abuse also. In some states, it is a law that caregivers must report suspected child abuse. This is in an effort to limit unreported child abuse cases. This blog gives a brief overview of the elements of child abuse under the law.

A child abuse charge

State child abuse laws use three main criteria to mark a child abuse case as sufficient to bring charges. It is any act that:

  1. Brings risk or harm to the welfare of a child
  2. Is directed towards a person under the age of 18
  3. Is carried out by someone that has responsibility for the child

These acts are usually only valid if they were intentional - through direct harm, negligence or otherwise.

The law obligates a person to report child abuse

Certain people - varying from state to state - have a legal obligation to report any child abuse that they suspect to be taking place. Many states require any person, but others require it only of people such as doctors, social workers and teachers. In some states, failure to report suspicions can be classed as a misdemeanor.

Every circumstance relating to child abuse is unique and is interpreted in a different way by the law. If you have any questions relating to child abuse charges, it is important to seek trusted legal guidance so that your case can be assessed individually.

Source: Findlaw, "Child abuse overview," accessed July 14, 2017

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