As both a criminal defense and family law attorney for over 25 years, the answer is not simply that you have the right to spank your children, there are varying degrees that are often interpreted differently by different judges, professionals and social workers.
The general rule is that you can spank your children as a corrective behavior measure so long as it does not leave a mark. Even the question of “leaving a mark” is measured drastically differently depending on a number of factors.
For example, light skinned or white children will more readily show a mark. Most professionals agree that if you spank your children, you should use your hand. That said, a hand print is often the first thing that will arise when they are filing abuse charges.
The second thing that is considered is if it was a thought-out punishment. Spanking while angry or without consideration is generally considered worse and more likely to be abuse. Though out may be 1, 2 or 3 swats, not ongoing or without a plan.
There are also various definitions which are used. The most common place that people go if there is a report of abuse is to Family Juvenile Court for DNA. DNA is Dependency, Neglect and Abuse. The case is sent to Juvenile court where the initial goal is to reunite the children with the parent(s). This is not criminal court and the standard for making a finding is much less than in criminal cases. The parent may be required to take parenting classes, undergo drug/alcohol testing, or seek abuse counseling.
If the county attorney considers it severe, the parent could also be charged with a crime. The standard for a criminal conviction is much greater than that required for a finding in Juvenile court. The defendant is entitled to a jury trial and representation if they cannot afford an attorney.
In defending a criminal charge, KRS 503.110 provides: The use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when the defendant is a parent, guardian, or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor or an incompetent person or when the defendant is a teacher or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor, for a special purpose, and: (a) The defendant believes that the force used is necessary to promote the welfare of a minor or mentally disabled person or, if the defendant’s responsibility for the minor or mentally disabled person is for a special purpose, to further that special purpose or maintain reasonable discipline in a school, class, or other group; and (b) The force that is used is not designed to cause or known to create a substantial risk of causing death, serious physical injury, disfigurement, extreme pain, or extreme mental distress.
If you have been charged with child abuse, whether in Juvenile court or as a crime, you should hire an attorney to protect y our rights and advise you though the process. For consultation in Northern Kentucky, contact Michael Bouldin or call 859-581-6453 (581-MIKE) or email [email protected].