Domestic Violence by Children
It may come as a surprise to many but children can also be the perpetrator of domestic violence as well a victim. I am often asked what is a parent to do when the child has assaulted a parent. Routine discipline of a child by a parent is not domestic violence and is recognized by the law so long is it is “reasonable”. That is why parents are not usually accused of domestic violence when children are involve. It is when that discipline is unreasonable that the law becomes involved.
This webpage is directed to a different problem- that of the child who assaults a parent. We don’t usually think that children would beat-up a parent, but in divorce cases, when children assault a parent it is out of frustration or anger with the parent who is assaulted, or because they have been maniuplated by the absent parent to retaliate.
What is an assaulted parent to do? In this case my advice is to report the assault to the police and at least make a police report. It is a sad fact that adults are held responsible in divorce court, but children are held responsible in juvenile court. You don’t have to prosecute the child in juvenile court, but by at least making the report you secure a record of the act by making the report. If necessary and the child continues to be unrulely then the child can be controlled by the juvenile court. I have seen instances where a child was being manipulated by the absent parent and this report and threat of subsequent prosecution was the only thing that kept the child from becoming uncontrollable. From a divorce stand point, to not report it to the police sets up the allegation that the assaulted parent can’t control the child. It is unwise to abandoned the child to the absent parent, (don’t just take the child to the other parent) because it sets the stage for the absent parent to say just that. It can also color the child’s subsequent acts which the divorce court may weigh on the issue of custody. You don’t abandoned your duty to the child just because you and your spouse can not get along and are separating. The Court will make the decision about custody on what is best for the child. The fact that the child assaulted one parent will be a fact that the court needs to know about. What were the circumstances and what did parent do to diffuse the situation? Was the parent reasonable or unreasonable in controlling the child? Having the police report at least documents the incident and what the child did. It also keeps the child from later characterizing the incident as one where the parent assaulted the child.
Preserving the evidence can then be used in the custody case. The further you get from the incident the more likelyhood will be that the incident will be mis-characterized at a later date.
Children can be manipulated and they can become angry at the circumstances they are in. The point is, don’t let your spouse turn the acts of the child against you without knowing what the implications may be. Parents are still the adults and they are charged with their duties to the child. If your child assaulted another adult would they not be reported to the Police?
You are not alone!