Child abuse is a serious allegation.  It can arise due to physical, emotional, mental or environmental concerns.  It should not be reported casually or to gain an upperhand in a custody matter.

By Attorney Alyssa Knisely, Family Law Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

It is never recommended that a party to a custody action file a report with Children and Youth Services (CNY) of alleged child abuse to gain an upperhand in a child custody matter.  Pursuant to the Juvenile Act or the Child Protective Services Law, the Agency will have to undertake an investigation into the matter that may take up to 60 days in order to have the report determined "founded, indicated, or unfounded."  This can tie the hands of both parties that may be involved in a custody matter.  Further, if the report is later determined to be unfounded and the report was made by the other parent, it severly impacts the credibility of the reporting parent.  It now may be viewed by the court that you were interfering in the custodial relationship with the other parent.

This is not to suggest that if actual abuse is occuring, the other parent or grandparent should not report suspected abuse.  However, do not take a casual approach.  Have documented evidence of physical abuse.  Collect photos of bruises, cuts, scrapes, or scars.  Have the child seen by a doctor, therapist or psychologist.  Get to the bottom of what's going on with an expert before taking action.  Get the corroboration from other reliable sources, such as teachers, grandparents, school nurses, a principal or a counselor that the suspected abuse is actually occurring.  Do not rely solely on what the child is telling you.  A child, especially a young one, may tell you what they think you want to hear.

If you believe actual child abuse is occurring, contact a lawyer.  They may be able to suggest better ways to prove the matter before going to Children and Youth Service.  You may call Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.