The court system encourages parents to spend time with their children in divorce and co-parenting situations whenever possible. In every instance, courts want to act in the child’s best interest. However, there are certain circumstances where it’s not in the best interest to stay with a parent — such as in cases of neglect, abuse, or alienation.
When this happens, it’s understandable that you’ll want to remove your children from the situation as quickly as possible. Accusing another parent of abuse and neglect is a serious charge, so the courts need specific proof of these allegations before modifying child custody arrangements or pressing criminal charges. Below, we discuss how Florida defines neglect, abuse, and alienation and how to prove whether your ex-spouse engages in these dangerous activities.
What is Child Neglect?
Florida Statute 827.03(e) defines neglect as the failure to provide a child with the supervision and care necessary to maintain their physical and mental health. The caregiver is expected to provide nutrition, shelter, clothing, medical services, and more. Neglect also includes a caregiver’s failure to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by someone else.
Neglect is a serious crime that is a third or second-degree felony. Neglect charges also impact the caregiver’s ability to spend time with the child. In the case of parental abuse, the parent can have their parental rights taken away.
Examples of neglect may include:
● Unsafe living situations, such as health or safety code violations
● Lack of appropriate clothing or shelter
● Unsanitary home conditions
To prove that your ex-spouse has been neglectful, you’d need to show that they could prevent the neglect but didn’t. You’ll also need evidence of instances when they failed to provide for your child’s physical and mental health, such as citations from local organizations about unsafe living conditions, school notes, or a medical diagnosis indicating malnutrition.
What Constitutes Child Abuse?
Florida Statute 827.03 also defines abuse and alienation. According to Florida law, child abuse is intentionally causing physical or mental injury to a child. Abuse also includes acts that could reasonably be expected to result in injuries and the active encouragement of another person to commit such an act.
Child abuse is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Abuse charges can also affect parental rights and visitation with the child.
Examples of abuse could include:
● Malicious punishment that causes bodily harm
Proving physical child abuse could include documenting suspicious bruises, cuts, or accounts from your child. Be sure to note abuse and report it immediately to keep your child safe.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation occurs when a parent intentionally manipulates a child to distance them from the other parent. Children who experience parental alienation may provide made-up reasons to reject the targeted parent, act out, and deny communication with one or both parents.
Examples of parental alienation include:
● An ex-spouse who won’t comply with the custody arrangement
● A child refusing visitation
● Mimicking negative feelings and phrases that mirror what your ex-spouse has said about you.
The most efficient way to prove parental alienation is to ensure that you (the target parent of the alienation) haven’t done anything to justify the negative behavior. Continue to attempt to follow custody arrangements and communication to show good faith in following court agreements.
How to Make a Neglect, Abuse, or Alienation Allegation
If you suspect your children are facing abuse, neglect, or alienation from the other parent, it’s essential to act immediately. Document and present your evidence. Then, file for a temporary injunction, which will officially ask your ex-spouse to stop performing the acts and order them to stay away. Filing an injunction will also give you the right to file an emergency custody order, which will modify the parenting plan so your children won’t have to face more abuse or neglect. Once you file for an injunction, a hearing will be set to determine whether the injunction should remain permanent.
Contact an Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney For Help
Neglect, abuse, and alienation allegations are serious charges that should only be filed when necessary. If it’s suspected that you have made false allegations about neglect or abuse, your visitation time with your children may be impacted. Conti Moore Law works with you to ensure your children are protected. Contact our office at 407-584-5069 for a free, 15-minute consultation.