How to Protect Children from an Abusive Parent
As a parent, you are continually trying to protect your children from getting hurt – physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, your children may be vulnerable to danger in their own home in the form of an abusive parent. If you suspect that your child is experiencing abuse from their other parent, contact O’Connor Family Law immediately. With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, our seasoned attorneys know what legal actions you could take to protect your children from an abusive parent.
Know the Signs of Abuse
In order to protect your child from suspected abuse, you must know what warning signs to look for. Some common signs of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse may include:
- Unexplained injuries, including bruises, burns, and black eyes
- Behavioral problems in school or with other children
- Regressive behavior, such as thumb sucking, rocking, or head-banging
- Fear of adults, particularly the other parent
- Emotionally shutting down
- Wetting the bed or experiencing nightmares
- Displaying overly sexualized behavior
- Engaging in self-mutilation
If you learn that your co-parent is being abusive toward your child, you can also contact a state agency committed to protecting children, such as the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. This agency can investigate and may be able to assist you in getting services that can help your child start to heal from the abuse they’ve undergone.
Request a Restraining Order against an Abusive Parent
Under the Abuse Prevention Law in Massachusetts, you may seek a restraining order on behalf of your children. A protection order is an excellent measure that can quickly stop all contact between your children and their abusive parent. A restraining order will immediately overrule any prior judgment. Where a restraining order requires a showing of physical or sexual abuse, if the abuse if mental or verbal, you can instead file for a modification of any previously established parenting schedule within the family court on an emergency basis.
File an Emergency Action with the Court
Your children’s best interests will always be the prevailing consideration in any custody or visitation proceeding in Massachusetts. If your child’s other parent presents an immediate danger to them, a court may intervene by granting you sole custody or suspending all visits between your kids and their other parent while an abuse investigation takes place. A court might also:
- Refer the matter to the appropriate child protection agency
- Order the abusive parent to attend counseling or parenting classes before resuming any visitation with the children
- Require any contact between the parent and the children to be supervised
- Appointing an attorney to speak to the children and advocate for them in any custody or visitation proceeding
- Appointing a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate the entire situation and make recommendations to the Court of what outcome is in the best interests of the children.
Filing an action with the court may not only ensure the safety of your children, but it can also protect you from a contempt of court charge by the abusive parent for any unlawfully revoked visitation time.
Seek Professional Help
Your kids might feel the effects of abuse long after the contact with the offending parent has stopped. Having an outlet to vent their feelings and concerns may help in the healing process. A counselor trained in child abuse therapy can work with your kids to process what they have experienced and recover from any trauma.
Speak with an Attorney about Protecting Children Experiencing Abuse
Confronting the fact that your children’s other parent may be abusive can feel overwhelming. Working with the appropriate state agencies, the court system, and mental health professionals can protect your children from further abuse. Do not hesitate to use these resources quickly and often if you believe your children are in danger. Additionally, our team of caring and compassionate attorneys are here to help you through the legal processes that can protect your children from an abusive parent. To get started on your case, call O’Connor Family Law today.