Public cases of parents facing criminal charges for excessive discipline, like NFL running back Adrian Peterson's 2014 indictment, can create confusion among parents. You may be wondering, “am I doing something illegal when I spank my child?”
Without any additional information, we can say this: No, you are not breaking the law by spanking your child. Parents in New Jersey have the right to use corporal punishment with their children.
However, parents may find themselves suddenly facing allegations of abuse because they choose to spank their child. In these cases, you must take allegations seriously.
Many Americans Spank Their Kids
Based on one recent survey, 37% of American kids receive spankings, with 49% of kids aged 0-9 receiving spankings. This number has declined over the years, as 70% of American respondents said in 2012 that “it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking.”
If spanking were illegal, many parents would be incarcerated for their disciplinary practices. Fortunately, parents in New Jersey still have the right to discipline their children as they see fit.
Parents in New Jersey don't, however, have the right to abuse their children. Unfortunately, the line between acceptable discipline and child abuse is not as clear as it should be.
Spanking Is Something of a Legal Gray Area in New Jersey
New Jersey law defines “cruelty” to a child as:
- Inflicting unnecessarily severe corporal punishment upon a child
- Inflicting upon a child unnecessary suffering or pain, either mental or physical
- Habitually tormenting, vexing, or afflicting a child
- Any willful act of omission or commission whereby unnecessary pain and suffering, whether mental or physical, is caused or permitted to be inflicted on a child
- Exposing a child to unnecessary hardship, fatigue, or mental or physical strains that may tend to injure the health or physical or moral well-being of such child
These definitions of cruelty seem clear and straightforward, at least on paper. In reality, terms like “excessive” and “unnecessary” are extremely subjective. What a parent may view as a justifiable spanking could, in the eyes of a mandatory reporter, acquaintance, or the state, qualify as cruelty towards the child.
This ambiguity in the law puts parents in a dangerous position. If the state decides that your spanking crosses the line into child abuse, your life may be immediately turned upside down.
All It Takes Is an Anonymous Tip to Become a Child Abuse Suspect
New Jersey encourages those who witness child abuse to call 1-800 NJ ABUSE. With a single call from a family member, teacher, counselor, acquaintance, or other reporter, you may find yourself the subject of a criminal investigation.
Especially as more and more people come to view spanking as an unnecessary form of discipline, any parent in New Jersey can become the victim of a misguided or malicious report of child abuse.
You may lose your child, face incarceration, significant financial fines, and immense stigma if you're convicted of child abuse.
Call an Attorney To Defend You From an Allegation of Abuse
Spanking isn't illegal in New Jersey, and you shouldn't be punished for disciplining your child—but you could be. Hire attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team to defend you. Call The Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or submit your case online.