What if I Suspect That My Ex is Abusing My Child?
Unfortunately, accusations of child abuse are tossed around in the heat of the moment during custody disputes – and many are unfounded. This makes it more difficult for the courts to handle, especially when a legitimate case of abuse exists. Many of the accusations that courts deal with are based on boiling emotions and fears generated from the divorce – but it is important to realize that child abuse and neglect does happen, and it needs to be addressed.
If your child has come to you with complaints of abuse, or if you suspect that he or she is being abused by your ex, there are steps you need to take immediately. Also, it is important to realize that you should give your ex the benefit of the doubt – especially if he or she doesn’t have a history of abuse (whether physical or emotional). Beyond those misunderstandings, you must also accept the real threat of abuse and neglect, and take action when necessary.
Five Things to Do if You Suspect Abuse
If you do suspect that your ex or his or her new partner is abusing your child, there are five things you must consider:
- Do Not Proactively Look for Evidence of Abuse – When you are close to the drama of a divorce, you cannot do a fair assessment when looking for evidence of neglect or abuse. The odds are likely that you will find abuse even when it doesn’t actually exist. Instead, you need to just watch out for the signs of abuse. Be aware of any symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc. But, do not assume that these are from abuse, either – they could be the result of the divorce stress.
- Know What the Signs of Abuse Look Like – Equally important is not chalking up your child’s behavior to the divorce. Your child could be the victim of abuse, and thinking that his or her behavioral issues is a result of the divorce could prolong the abuse. Instead, you need to be familiar with the signs of abuse. Some indications that your child may be being abused include unexplained bruises and injuries, broken bones, burns, or unusual lacerations. Other things, like his or her attitude toward the other parent, signs of malnutrition or dehydration, anxiety, or depression are key indicators to look out for, too.
- Do Not Interrogate Your Own Child – If you do see the warning signs, you do not want to ask leading questions that can end up suggesting to your child that he or she has a problem (when one doesn’t actually exist). Instead, seek professional assistance and have a professional question your child. If, however, your child comes out on his or her own and tells you about the issue, then you need to contact the authorities.
- When in Doubt, Get Help – If you are not sure if your child is being abused, you need to contact a local child abuse center or speak with a child therapist. A professional can help assess if your child is actually the victim of abuse, or if there is something else going on.
- Document Everything – Most importantly, you need to document your findings. From the moment when you suspect abuse, write down the date and time, symptoms you see, what the child has said, etc. Document everything to help prove your claim.
Lastly, contact your family attorney. Once you have confirmed your suspicions, or if you just have a heavy suspicion your child is being abused by your ex, contact a family law attorney. An attorney can help assess the case and even seek professional assistance for your child.
Do not wait; contact Sarieh Law Offices today regarding your suspected abuse. We can help get a protective order for your child and adjust custody with the courts to protect your child from the abusing parent. Schedule a consultation now by calling us at 714-542-6200, or fill out our online contact form with your legal questions.