If you know from experience how heartbreaking it is to send your child to your ex’s house, where you know they’ll be abused or neglected, our hearts go out to you. Tragically, this is an experience many people have when they share custody with their abusive ex-spouse. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as simply withholding parent-time from your abusive ex. Even when a parent has good reason to believe their ex is abusing their child, they may not be able to refuse the abusive ex their court-ordered parent-time. These parents know that refusing to follow court ordered parent-time orders at the first sign of abuse has the potential to backfire in court, and may even result in the abusive ex getting more parent-time. This has left many parents wondering, If you know your ex is abusing your child, what should you do to protect your child?
Document the Abuse
Document the abuse in a journal, including the date and your child’s account of what happened. It may also help to document any observations you have about your child. Things like the child’s mood, their demeanor, things they say, concerning new habits, concerning new behaviors, and unexplained injuries can also be used as evidence that your child is being abused. Write in your journal frequently and consistently. If relatives, friends, or babysitters have also witnessed concerning behaviors in your child, have the witnesses document their experiences with the child as well. If there are unusual or unexplained marks or bruises on your child, take pictures of them.
Protect Your Child
If you have reason to believe your child is being neglected or abused, take measures to protect your child before they go over to their ex’s house. If you think your child is being neglected, make sure to pack bottled water and non-perishable snacks with them so they don’t go hungry at their other parent’s house. Make sure they also have a set of warm clothes, and a set of clean clothes, in case their parent hasn’t provided these items. After they return from their other parent’s house, make sure they don’t have any new, unexplained injuries. If they do have new injuries, make sure to take pictures. Any physical abuse should be reported to the appropriate authorities. Speaking with an attorney about the specific circumstance will help you to know who should be notified and what other steps you can take to protect your child.
Get an Expert’s Opinion
At the first sign of potential abuse, you should take your child to a medical professional. Let the child’s doctor know that you suspect the child is being abused by your ex, and have the doctor examine the child. You may also want to have the child evaluated by a psychologist who is trained to spot signs of abuse. Since you’re the child’s parent, and the potential abuser is your ex, it may be difficult to see things from an objective perspective. A doctor or psychologist can review your case from an objective point of view, and help you file a DCFS case. It’s important that a medical professional files a DCFS case because, if the claims of abuse are unsubstantiated, it may make you look bad in a court.
Refrain from Questioning Your Child
Definitely write down everything your child says about the abuse. But try to refrain from questioning your child directly or “pumping” them for information. In order to get the most accurate information about the potential abuse, your child will need to be examined by someone who has experience and training with questioning children who may have been abused. The answers you may get from young children may be unreliable since younger kids are more susceptible to leading questions and suggestive questions. And, if you need protection from an abusive ex, you don’t want it to look like you coached your child to say they were abused.
Protect Your Family Today
The best-case scenario is one where your child no longer has to be abused by their parent. However, in order for that to happen, it may be necessary for you to get some advice from a family law attorney. At CoilLaw, our experienced team of attorneys are committed to helping you protect your family from an abusive ex. If you’re concerned about your child’s safety while they’re at your ex’s house, contact CoilLaw today for a consultation. We can help you protect your family today.