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Domestic Violence & Child Abuse or Neglect in Maryland


Domestic violence laws in Maryland provide special considerations for child victims of abuse or neglect. In these unfortunate situations, state law requires mandatory reporting of suspected abuse or neglect. This allows state agencies to act swiftly to protect at-risk children. When there is any indication of harm or injury to a child, extraordinary measures are available, including removal of a child from their parent, custodian, or guardian.

What Qualifies as Child Abuse in Maryland?

Maryland Code, Family Law Section 5-701 outlines the definition of child abuse that must be reported and investigated. There are essentially two versions of this term. First, sexual abuse of a child — whether or not it results in physical injury — qualifies as child abuse.

Second, child abuse can also refer to any physical or mental injury to a child that harms or threatens their wellbeing, although Section 5-701 restricts this version of a child abuse to situations where the abuser was a:

  • Parent of the child;
  • Household or family member of the child;
  • Person with temporary or permanent custody of the child;
  • Person with supervisory responsibility over the child; or
  • Person with authority over the child.

Before leaving the topic of child abuse, it is vital to note an important exception. Section 5-701 excludes accidental physical injuries from the definition of child abuse. To qualify as child abuse under Maryland law, the perpetrator must act intentionally.

What Qualifies as Child Neglect in Maryland?

Section 5-701 also details the definition of child neglect under state law. This term only applies to a child’s parents, custodians, or guardians. Child neglect is a broad term in Maryland, encompassing any activity that:

  • Harms a child’s health or wellbeing;
  • Places a child health or wellbeing at substantial risk of harm;
  • Inflicts mental injury to a child; or
  • Places a child at substantial risk of mental injury.

For example, leaving a child unattended qualifies as neglect under Maryland law. The same applies for the failure to provide proper care, nutrition, shelter, or medical attention.

How Does Maryland Protect Child Victims of Abuse or Neglect?

Maryland Code, Family Law Section 5-702 describes the intent of state protections for child victims of abuse or neglect. In these circumstances, Section 5-702 provides for:

  • Mandatory reporting of any suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect;
  • Immunity for any person who reports suspected child abuse or neglect;
  • Timely investigation into reports of suspected child abuse or neglect;
  • Coordinated state response to intervene on behalf of victims of child abuse or neglect; and
  • Local governmental support for victims of child abuse or neglect.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you need legal help with child abuse or neglect in Maryland, it can be remarkably beneficial to contact a well-regarded domestic violence attorney. The Bel Air domestic violence attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including child abuse and neglect. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.


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