Is Spanking Considered Child Abuse in California?

It should go without saying that some parenting techniques from bygone eras are growing out of fashion. Some of these have already mostly faded into history, like washing a child’s mouth out with soap for saying a bad word or forcing them to finish their plate when they’re not hungry.

If those are going by the wayside, then it should be no surprise that even spanking and corporal punishment are being used less and less often.

Although fading, spanking isn’t gone yet. Parents with more traditional values still use it as a means of correcting a child’s inappropriate or disruptive behavior. Corporal punishment isn’t illegal in California, so parents are more or less free to use it as long as it’s not excessive or causes injury, which can be a thin and risky line to walk.

When Does Spanking Become Child Abuse?

California law would consider spanking to be abusive behavior if it is excessive and unreasonable. In other words, spanking a child for every minor slight would be unreasonable, and spanking them to the point of bruising or another type of injury would be excessive.

According to the California Penal Code 273dPC, child abuse is defined as the following:

  • When someone inflicts cruel or inhuman corporal punishment upon a child, or
  • When someone inflicts an injury upon a child, resulting in a traumatic condition

So, parents who choose to spank their children can legally do so, but they must be careful to control themselves so as to avoid causing physical injury when administering punishment. To avoid running afoul of the law, parents should also consider reserving spanking only for a child’s most severe misbehavior or stop using it altogether.

Can My Child Be Taken Away If I Spank Them?

If a parent’s corporal punishment is noticed to be too excessive or unreasonable, or if concerns about child abuse are raised, a juvenile dependency case may be opened. This is a legal process that evaluates a child’s current living situation and whether or not it suits the child’s best interests.

A possible outcome of a juvenile dependency case is permanently losing custody of your children, but often not before you’re given a chance to correct your own behavior. You will likely carry out a case plan, which can require you to complete counseling and parenting classes before you’ll be reunited with your child.

You will need legal assistance to help you through this process and increase your odds of securing a better outcome. At Claery & Hammond, LLP, our juvenile dependency lawyers are experienced advocates for parents who are at risk of losing what’s most precious to them.

If your disciplinary actions were misunderstood or mischaracterized as child abuse, we may be able to offer the legal representation you need most right now.

For more information about our legal services, please contact Claery & Hammond, LLP online.