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How child abuse or neglect affects family legal issues

An unfortunate aspect of family law in Washington is one that happens all too frequently: child abuse and neglect. Many people might not be fully aware of what legal avenues are available to them to do something about this. Sometimes, it has an effect on custody and there is the threat of violence precluding a parent from moving forward to settle these family legal issues. Understanding how the legal system views these matters can help a parent settle the dispute, or another relative can take steps to protect the child.

The state government tries to steer clear of family issues, but if there is a problem with abuse inside the family, then there are steps that can be taken. One possibility is called "dependency." This is frequently started by a social worker employed by the state. They often work for Child Protective Services. The idea behind this legal maneuver is to ensure that the child is safe and make it possible for the family unit to be maintained. Child Protective Services is also known as CPS. This branch conducts investigations into abuse and neglect allegations. CPS also assists parents.

A dependent child will lead to Child Welfare Services taking part in the situation as well. The idea is to come up with a long-term plan to protect the child and ensure a safe and nurturing atmosphere while maintaining the possibility of the family remaining together. Depending on the child's age, there are different services that the state will provide. If the child is older, there can be a dependency proceeding. There is also "At Risk Youth" and "Child in Need of Services" programs.

It is possible that a parent who is found to have abused a child or assaulted a spouse will be subject to criminal charges. This could lead to penalties such as jail and fines. The parent might also be prevented from seeing the child or there could be a requirement that there is a state agent present during the times that the child and parent are together. Neglect and abuse can happen to anyone and it is important that children are protected.

Source: courts.wa.gov, "Family Law Handbook - Chapter 12 - Child Abuse and Neglect, page 23," accessed on Aug. 18, 2015

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