Analyzing Maryland Domestic Violence Laws Against Child Abuse & Neglect
The State of Maryland features strict laws against domestic violence, including child abuse and neglect. Concerning children, specifically, parents and guardians have a duty to safeguard the health and safety of children under their care. If a person responsible for a child commits abuse or neglect, the state can remove the child temporarily to safeguard their best interests moving forward.
Definitions of Child Abuse & Neglect
The definitions of child abuse and neglect appear under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-701. This section defines child abuse as a physical or mental injury, including sexual assault, that indicates the child’s health or welfare is at risk at the hands of a:
- Family member;
- Household member;
- Person with temporary or permanent custody of the child;
- Person with responsibility for supervising the child; or
- Person with authority over the child by virtue of their occupation.
Section 5-701 does carve out an exception to child abuse. Accidental injuries do not rise to the level of child abuse under Maryland law.
Under Section 5-701, child neglect occurs when a parent or other person with custody or responsibility leaves a child unattended or otherwise fails to provide proper care or attention to a child. In addition, one of the following factors must also be present:
- The child’s health or welfare is harmed or at serious risk of suffering harm; or
- The child sustains mental injury or is at serious risk of suffering mental injury.
Reports of Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect
The requirements for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect appear under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-704. This section requires educators, health practitioners, human service workers, and police officers to:
- Notify law enforcement or a similarly appropriate agency, if they have reason to believe that a child sustained abuse or neglect; and
- Alert the head of their organization of the report, if working for a child care institution, hospital, juvenile detention center, public health agency, school, or similar organization.
To the extent reasonably possible, a report of suspected child abuse or neglect under Section 5-704 should include the:
- Name, age, and home address of the child;
- Name, age, and home address of the parent or other person responsible for the child;
- Current whereabouts of the child;
- Nature and extent of the abuse or neglect, including any available evidence; and
- Other information that could help determine the cause of the child abuse or neglect and the identity of the person responsible.
Removal of Children at Risk of Abuse or Neglect
The rules governing the temporary removal of children at risk of abuse or neglect appear under Maryland Code of Family Law Section 5-709. In the investigation of a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, a state representative may enter a household if:
- There is probable cause to believe that the child is in immediate and serious danger; and
- The representative was previously denied entry to the household.
In these situations, a police officer will be present and can use reasonable force, if needed, to gain entry to the household in question. At that point, it is possible to remove the child temporarily, if the child is actually in immediate and serious danger.
Let Us Help You Today
If you have legal questions about domestic violence or child abuse or neglect, contact the Bel Air domestic vioelnce attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered for help. Reach out to us today for a consultation.