What You Need to Know about Child Abuse and Custody in Arizona
Child custody cases can be some of the most emotionally-charged litigation matters. Understandably, most mothers and fathers are extremely protective over their relationship with their children, and nothing kicks this instinct into overdrive like someone threatening to separate them from their kids. Many times, in addition to this ability, there are extenuating factors that contribute to the volatility of child-custody matters. Things such as substance abuse, religious differences, and other lifestyle choices frequently have a way of adding fuel to the emotional fire of these cases. Another unfortunate emotional catalyst is the suspicion or accusation of child abuse or neglect.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) takes allegations and reports of child abuse and neglect very seriously. Likewise, the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC make this issue of the utmost importance when paired with a child custody dispute. If you’re concerned about potential child abuse occurring at the hands of your soon to be ex-spouse, you owe it to yourself and your child(ren) to schedule an initial consultation with our office. To ensure the best and most safe outcome for your children, it is critical for you to be informed. Our child abuse and child custody attorneys have the education and experience necessary to provide you with sound legal advice in your time of need. Contact us today at (480)305-8300 to schedule an initial consultation.
Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect
If you have suspicions that your child’s mother or father is being abusive or neglectful, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure what your first step should be. You might also find yourself wondering if the warning signs you think you’re seeing are, in fact, signs of abuse. The Arizona DCS responds to abuse, neglect, abandonment, confinement, and non-sexual exploitation of children. The department and Arizona Regulatory Statutes (ARS) provide copious amounts of information about these areas of abuse and neglect, briefly summarized below.
- Abuse: Governed by ARS 8-201, inflicting, allowing, or failure to prevent physical injury to a child may constitute abuse and there are various types of abuse, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
- Neglect: This is defined by the inability or unwillingness of a parent, guardian or custodian to provide the child with proper supervision and basic needs, causing unreasonable risk of harm to the child’s welfare and health. This may include cases of exposing the child to harmful substances or sexual conduct or materials
- Abandonment: When a parent or guardian fails to give reasonable support or maintain regular contact with his or her child with the intention of allowing these conditions to continue for an indefinite period, the courts may recognize their actions as abandonment. This may include minimal efforts to support and maintain a relationship with the child
- Confinement: This occurs when a parent or guardian restricts the child’s movements or confines him or her to an enclosed area. Confinement need not be physical and can include threats or intimidation to force a child to stay in a particular location or position
- Exploitation: When a child is used by his or her parent or guardian for material gain, exploitation may be occurring
If you have concerns that your spouse is subjecting your child to any of these forms of abuse or neglect, seek professional legal counsel immediately after contacting the proper authorities. Attorney Chris Hildebrand is well-versed at what steps must be taken to properly investigate claims of child abuse. This knowledge is extremely advantageous to obtaining a safe and protective child custody order by the courts.
Reporting and the Impact on Child Custody
If you and your spouse are currently involved in a custody matter, and you suspect or have evidence that abuse or neglect of any kind is occurring to your child, it is vital to report any and all information you have about the alleged abuse to your attorney as soon as reasonably possible. Allegations of abuse can have significant ramifications on how the courts establish custody orders, and any information about potential abuse must be considered accordingly. Any reports of abuse or neglect to the DCS are considered confidential; however, it is important to note that there is the potential of being called as a witness to testify in any future court proceedings.
Arizona courts work very closely with the Arizona DCS as an investigation is completed into the claim of abuse. As part of their investigation, the DCS will conduct interviews with the child(ren) and siblings. The DCS often prefers to perform their interviews in a neutral environment, such as a school. The department will also likely conduct interviews with other family members or key individuals who may be able to provide information on the matter. Additionally, a home inspection is also likely to occur. Because the DCS takes the issue of child abuse and neglect so seriously, you never want to make reporting a potentially abusive situation lightly.
If your divorce and custody order is already in place and you have concerns about the safety of your child while he or she is in the care of the other parent, you can file an Emergency Petition. The court can temporarily modify or suspend the other parent’s time with the child while an investigation is underway.
False Accusations of Abuse or Neglect
When couples divorce, angry feelings can remain long after the dissolution of the marriage is final. Unfortunately, whether out of malice or misconstrued signs, there are times when false accusations of abuse are made by one parent against the other. These false allegations are not only dishonest, but they can prove especially damaging to the parent/child relationship and have severe negative repercussions on the falsely accused.
The Arizona Court of Appeals found just such a case in front of them in 2015 with Flynn v. Brown. Ms. Flynn, who had sole legal custody and final decision-making authority claimed that Mr. Brown, who had supervised parenting time, had molested their daughter. Through a lengthy trial, it was determined that no abuse occurred and the courts modified Ms. Flynn’s sole legal decision-making to joint legal decision-making. The court also deemed that the father/daughter relationship had been damaged because of the false allegations made. Aside from fracturing relationships, for the falsely accused, the ramifications can be severe.
The Arizona Court of Appeals found just such a case in front of them in 2015 with Flynn v. Brown. Ms. Flynn, who had sole legal custody and final decision-making authority claimed that Mr. Brown, who had supervised parenting time, had molested their daughter.
Through a lengthy trial, it was determined that no abuse occurred and the courts modified Ms. Flynn’s sole legal decision-making to joint legal decision-making. The court also deemed that the father/daughter relationship had been damaged because of the false allegations made. Aside from fracturing relationships, for the falsely accused, the ramifications can be severe and potential grounds for a countersuit related to libel or slander.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.
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