Being a parent is not easy, and it takes constant hard work, love, and care to protect and raise a child. Unfortunately, some parents are accused of abusing their children when they are simply trying to be a good parent. In Texas, data from the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) shows that there are an average of over 66,000 confirmed cases of child abuse each year, with over 280,000 reports of abuse or neglect called in. The majority of Texas child abuse reports are lodged by individuals who are not a part of the family being accused of abusing their child, including teachers, medical professionals, and law enforcement professionals. Under Texas law, these professionals are “mandatory reporters,” required to report any signs of child abuse or neglect when observed. Many individuals who make these reports do not have the full story and make assumptions about the child’s home life. These assumptions lead to false reports of child abuse, which is why the number of confirmed versus reported cases of child abuse in Texas are so disparate.
The Texas Family Code and Texas Penal Code detail various actions that constitute child abuse. They include physical forms of abuse, sexual abuse and misconduct, allowing a child to use controlled substances, as well as emotional or mental abuse. If you have been accused of child abuse, it is essential to contact an experienced family law attorney who can fight for your rights. Being falsely accused of child abuse can lead to confusion, stress, and serious consequences for you and your family. The attorneys at Terry & Roberts are ready to defend your family against allegations of child abuse in family court. Our knowledgeable team of attorneys can present a variety of defenses to prove you did not harm your child.
A common defense against allegations of child abuse is that the allegations are false. We will aggressively counter-attack any allegations and show proof the accuser is lying and/or wrong. False accusations are very common, as many individuals who accuse a parent of child abuse do not know what is going on in that child’s life. If the family is going through a divorce, is known to be loud or outspoken, or is seen as “dysfunctional,” outside observers may think there is abuse when there is no evidence.
Injury Due to Circumstances Other than Child Abuse
The Texas Penal Code Section 22.04 states that a person may only be convicted of committing the offense of “injury to a child” if the person who hurt the child did so intentionally or knowingly, recklessly committed an act that harmed the child, or criminally neglected the child. This means that if your child was hurt in an accident, maybe while pushing them on the swings or playing catch with a baseball, this is not considered child abuse. This child abuse defense is typically focused on the question of causation and whether the person accused of child abuse was legally culpable for the actions that caused harm to the child in question. Courts are clear that when a child’s injuries are the results of an accident, it is not considered child abuse; however, they are split as to whether to prosecute parents who harm their child accidentally due to negligence. One such example is if a parent forgets a sleeping baby in their car alone on a hot day. Your attorney will know when and if this defense applies to your situation.
Parent’s Right to Discipline
In Texas, parents are generally able to discipline their children in whatever manner they choose as long as the discipline is reasonable and causes no bodily harm. Many people have differing views on where the line between reasonable discipline and abuse lies and it is often the subject of allegations of child abuse. In certain cases, a parent can use the defense of “parental privilege” and claim that they have the right to reasonably discipline a child under their authority. This can only work if the child’s injuries are minor, such as light bruising, and are a direct result of the discipline.
Texas is a diverse state and our citizens have a wide range of religious beliefs. While it is difficult to grasp the thought of a child dying from a treatable illness, a parent may claim an exemption to child abuse if their religion does not believe in seeking medical care in certain circumstances. While controversial, religious exemption is a defense in Texas and allows parents to avoid charges of child abuse if their religion requires prayer to treat an illness instead of modern medicine.
Texas Child Abuse Defense
If you have been accused of child abuse, we can help you mount an aggressive defense as soon as we are brought into the case. We know the steps that can be taken to prevent the case from going to trial. Our legal team is ready to build character evidence and to take relevant witness statements to present in your case. Being falsely accused of child abuse can be devastating and cause your family to lose a great deal, especially if it involves a bitter ex-spouse attempting to influence ongoing custody litigation or out of vindictiveness. You may be facing the loss of custody of your children, not to mention a ruined reputation and even jail time. Contact the legal team at Terry & Roberts today to discuss your case.