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Is Spanking Abuse? Court Rules NO!

As an attorney who has worked in both mediation and in the court system, I have seen a lot of cases where one or both parties is leveling the charge of abuse at the other parent. Sometimes, it is clear cut and obvious, other times it may not be so obvious. Regardless of how obvious it seems to you, the court may not view the same set of circumstances you do as abuse, especially if your allegations involve spanking. What is certain is that you will have a battle royale on your hands trying to prove your allegations. Before you begin, and opt to go to court, rather than mediate, you may want to apply the test the California Court of Appeal handed down last year.

What is the most recent spanking case about anyhow?

The facts go something like this: A Los Angeles mom was spanking her child with a sandal…..chankla? and she was reported to the Department of Children and Family Services for physical abuse. The mother said that she only used the shoe to spank her child when all other means of discipline failed. When the dependency case was heard, the lower court said it was abuse. “Hitting children with shoes is not a proper form of discipline, and it’s physical abuse.” The court of appeal disagreed with the broad sweep of this bright line rule. Instead they adopted a test for spanking.

What is this so-called spanking test?

Well, before I go on…it can be applied to any form of physical or corporal punishment and is intended to guide the lower courts in their determination of whether an instance of discipline is abuse. So…here it is.

For a punishment to be reasonable it must be:

  1. genuinely disciplinary
  2. warranted by the circumstances and
  3. not be excessive in amount

So, before deciding that your spouse’s use of corporal punishment is abuse and getting into the battle of your life, it is helpful to know what rule the court is going to be using. Maybe this new spanking rule will make you more sure than ever that you need to proceed. Maybe, you will realize that what you really need to do is go to mediation.