Unfortunately, divorce is not a quick fix for abuse. If the abuser retains custody or visitation rights, a divorce may actually increase the abuse your child experiences.
The good news? With an experienced family divorce lawyer as your advocate, you can help stop child abuse now. You can make sure that the abuse doesn’t continue after the divorce is finalized.
What do I do if I suspect my child is being abused?
If you suspect a child is being abused, molested, neglected, or mistreated, it is your responsibility to notify the local police or child protective services. Your responsibility is to report the suspected abuse no matter your relationship with the child.
Utah law requires that anyone who suspects child abuse notify Child and Family Services (1-855-323-3237) or a law enforcement officer immediately. You can also contact the National Child Abuse Hotline for additional support at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You don’t have to give your name to get access to information and resources in your area.
Professional, early intervention is the best way to protect a child from abuse. The child’s safety is the top concern.
Not all child abuse allegations or suspicions turn out to be true, but all allegations and suspicions deserve attention and action.
Why do some people, including parents, hesitate to act when a child is being abused?
Many people, including parents, may have suspicions that a child is experiencing abuse but fail to alert authorities or remove the child from the situation. Some of the more common reasons that parents fail to alert authorities include the following:
- The parent may be concerned that their suspicion is wrong.
- The parent may be concerned that a child will be removed from the family.
- The parent may be concerned that they [the parent] may be implicated in the abuse.
- The parent may feel protective of the abuser.
These are normal and common concerns, but they don’t excuse inaction. If you suspect child abuse, the lawful thing to do is to make a report. Filing a report will not only protect the child, but it will also protect you.
If abuse is happening, the sooner that abuse is stopped, the sooner children and families can begin to heal. Talk to a police officer, a doctor, a child protective services agent immediately about suspicions of child abuse.
What are the signs of child abuse?
At least one incident of child abuse is confirmed every day in Utah. Signs of child abuse may include:
- Frequent bruising, especially in places that are unlikely to come from play
- Not wanting to go home
- Hurting themselves or cutting
- Avoiding being with others (children or adults)
- Unexplained burns, broken bones, or black eyes
- Demonstrating unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
- Acting inappropriately adult-like or infantile when touching others
What is the ‘Child Abuse and Divorce Myth’?
In 2001, researchers documented a pattern they described as ‘the child abuse and divorce myth.’ The myth, in short, is the widespread belief that child abuse allegations do not warrant serious consideration if the allegations first emerge at the time of a divorce. The timing of the abuse allegations (emerging at the time of divorce) causes professionals and family members to discount the allegations as ‘weapons fashioned to gain advantage in the marital war.’
However when researchers investigated 200 court cases in which child abuse allegations had been made, the researchers found that the ‘child abuse and divorce myth’ caused professionals to dismiss abuse allegations without proper investigation. The lack of serious attention given to the allegations caused unfortunate custody decisions by the courts.
How can a divorce lawyer help protect my child from child abuse?
A divorce lawyer can help you collect the evidence needed for your child abuse allegations to be taken seriously during the divorce negotiations. Suspected or confirmed abuse should be considered by the judge before custody and visitation decisions are finalized.
Once your divorce is final, a divorce lawyer can help you enforce an existing settlement. Your lawyer can also help you challenge a custody agreement if you have collected new evidence of abuse or neglect since the original custody decision.
What’s wrong with getting an uncontested, no-fault divorce as the quickest way to protect my kids from abuse?
If your kids are at risk, it’s normal to be looking for the quickest, most immediate way out. An uncontested, no-fault divorce is the cheapest and quickest way to get divorced. You may feel that a simple, fast divorce will minimize conflict and be the best option for you and your children. However, an uncontested, no-fault divorce may leave your children vulnerable and unprotected in the long term.
Once signed, a divorce decree becomes a binding, legal contract. Both spouses are legally obligated to follow the settlement terms. A divorce lawyer can ensure that protection for your child is included in the divorce settlement terms.
If your spouse hurts, neglects, or scares your child in any way, you can (and should) use this information to ensure that the terms of your divorce settlement protect your child. Consult with an experienced divorce and family law practice in Davis, Weber, or Salt Lake counties to protect your child from abuse during and after a divorce.