Child Negligence in Washington
When child custody is disputed, each parent fights fiercely to receive as much parenting time as possible with his or her children. Unfortunately, wanting to take care of children and having the ability to take care of children are two different things. When a parent is neglectful of his or her children, the other parent may be able to revise the parenting plan to keep the children safe.
What is Neglect?
Child neglect comes in many forms. At its most basic level, a parent neglects a child when he or she fails to provide for the child’s basic needs. Often, neglect comes from a pattern of behavior that shows a serious disregard for the consequences that a child suffers on account of the parent’s actions or inactions. As a result, the parent creates a danger to the child’s health, welfare, or safety.
It is important to note that a child does not have to be physically injured to be neglected. If a parent fails to provide food, shelter, clothing, supervision, or medical care, the state could prosecute that parent for neglect. So long as the person’s actions or inaction creates a substantial risk of injury to the child, or shows a disregard for the child’s physical or emotional well-being, the legal system can get involved.
There is a distinction between being poor and being neglectful. A parent who cannot afford new clothes or dinners at restaurants is not neglectful as long as the children have something to wear and something to eat.
Neglect has many different causes. Often, neglect stems from substance abuse issues. A parent may be too high or intoxicated to realize that his or her children need to be fed or cared for. Other times, major life changes like a new job or new partner can cause a previously attentive parent to ignore his or her children. Sometimes, there is no explanation for neglect and the abuse may be intentional.
Regardless of the cause, neglected children can suffer from a host of physical and emotional problems. In order to prevent long-term damage, it is important that children are removed from a neglectful environment right away.
Fighting Neglect in Court
If you believe that your children are being neglected and are in immediate danger, always contact the police and explain your concerns. Law enforcement officers and investigators from Children Protective Services will examine the children and their living situation and can remove the children from a dangerous situation.
After contacting the police, contact a family law attorney. Children who are being neglected should not be alone with the offending parent, and an attorney can file a motion to modify your parenting plan. In extreme situations, an attorney can ask the court to terminate the parental rights of the neglectful parent.
When arguing these types of issues in front of a judge, it helps to have evidence of the neglect. If you suspect your children are being neglected, take notes and keep records about their physical and emotional states after returning from their other parent’s home. Speak with your children about their experiences at their other parent’s house, and note if they are hungry, dirty, injured, or depressed.
Whenever you suspect your former partner of abusing or neglecting your children, address your concerns with your attorney. He or she can help you present your concerns to the court in a way which will be taken seriously by the judge and can help you obtain a restraining order on behalf of you and your children. A family law attorney can also request that your ex-attend counseling, or be investigated by Child Protective Services to assess the threat.
At Ashby Law, we share your disgust and outrage when your children are neglected. Our attorneys will fight to get you a parenting plan or custody agreement that keeps your children safe.