In Pennsylvania, the state takes a firm stance against child abuse. Children are protected under Pennsylvania law, and there is a wide range of services offered to families and children suffering abuse. The law defines a "child" as any individual under 18 years of age. There are a number of actions that can be prosecuted as child abuse.
Pennsylvania defines Child Abuse under § 3490.4. The statute reads:
"(i) The term child abuse means any of the following:
(A) Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes nonaccidental serious physical injury to a child.
(B) An act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes nonaccidental serious mental injury to or sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.
(C) A recent act, failure to act or series of the acts or failures to act by a perpetrator which creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to or sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.
(D) Serious physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide the essentials of life, including adequate medical care, which endangers a child's life or development or impairs the child's functioning."
Child abuse, under this statute, is not necessarily an outlined, punishable, crime. Instead, it is a circumstance of already defined crimes, such as assault or sexual misconduct. These actions, when done to a child or in a way that affects a child, are severely punishable, and almost always result in felony level charges.
Failure To Report Child Abuse
Certain individuals who play a role in a child's life may fall under a group of persons whom are required by law to report any instances of detected or suspected child abuse. Individuals who must report child suspected or discovered child abuse include: physicians, clergy, school personnel, social service workers, day care workers, mental health professionals, peace officers, law enforcement, coroners and funeral directors, and foster care workers. These people are known under law as "required reporters," and must report any abuse they detect with their specific skills. The standard of "reasonable case" is used for determining whether or not signs of abuse should be reported. It is a criminal offense to fail to report child abuse. The first failure will be a summary offense, but subsequent offenses will have charges brought at the misdemeanor level.
Can Child Abuse Affect Matters Of Family Law?
If a parent, or other family member, is found to be a source of child abuse, it can drastically affect any standing or pending orders for custody. Naturally, the court will want to remove the child from the source of any abuse, and will likely move forward to grant the other party full or primary custody, sometimes even on just the charges. Remember that the courts will always rule in the best interests of the child, and removing the child from any source of abuse will be a priority.
If you or a loved one is involved in matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.