How Do You Prove Parental Neglect?

Four Fundamental Needs of a Child and How to Prove They Are Not Being Met

When we talk about parental neglect, we are referring to the failure to provide for or meet a child’s four basic needs, which include the following:

  • Physical neglect – The failure to provide necessary food, clothing, and shelter, as well as inappropriate or lack of supervision
  • Medical neglect – The failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment
  • Educational neglect – The failure to educate a child or to provide for special education needs
  • Emotional neglect – The failure to meet a child’s emotional needs and provide psychosocial support or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs

In a general sense, state laws often define neglect as the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide necessary food, shelter, clothing, medical care, or supervision to the degree that a child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. In order to prove neglect, one would need to demonstrate that the child’s basic physical and emotional needs are not being met and that the child is not being properly cared for.

California Family Code Sections 3040-3049 provide information on child custody cases and how parenting time is typically divided in a California court when there is a separation. Typically, parents choose some type of shared custody. The court uses the best interests of the child standard in order to determine custody.

Oftentimes, it is the other parent who would accuse a parent of neglect in order to sway the child custody case in their favor for the child’s best interest. Oftentimes, it is the other parent who would accuse a parent of neglect in order to sway the child custody case in their favor for the child’s best interest if they do not believe the other parent should have custody.

How Can You Identify Child Neglect?

The other parent would have to prove neglect so that the court would not see it in the child’s best interest to be left alone with the other parent. In order to demonstrate this, the parent would have to prove that the child’s basic needs are not being met and that the other parent does not facilitate an environment through which the child can be properly cared for. The following forms of evidence can be used to influence this kind of investigation:

  • Direct observations of the child, parent, and home
  • Consistent statements from the parent
  • Consistent statements from the child
  • Corroboration of injuries and probable cause of injuries using medical records
  • Behavioral indicators of the parent and child
  • Diagnosis of a parent’s substance abuse disorder or mental health status
  • Statements obtained from other parties who have knowledge relevant to the allegations

Gathering this evidence can be a challenge because children are not often asked to speak out against the other parent. This situation is stressful enough for a child, and many parents prefer to shelter and protect them as much as possible. Therefore, the responsibility is on the prosecution to present the evidence, and it is important to work with a legal team who will advocate for your child’s best interests every step of the way. Some of the ways you and your legal team might work to present evidence of parental neglect include:

  • Getting video, audio, and photographic evidence

In California, this law is a two-party law, meaning both individuals must consent to the recording, otherwise it is illegal to record. If you record someone without their consent, you could be ordered to pay damages in a civil lawsuit and could even face jail time and a hefty fine. However, there are ways to provide photographic or video graphic evidence without violating this law. For example, if your child returns from their care in dirty clothing, has lost weight, or is living in an unsafe or improper environment, you can show video or pictures of the conditions.

  • Documenting health problems and other instances of neglect

If you have reason to believe that your child is not being nourished while in their care, you can document their weight to show how much is being lost when in the other parent’s care. You can also document school absences, illnesses, and doctor’s visits that the child has while in the parent’s care. The more evidence you are able to present, the more likely you will be to make your case.

  • Interviewing witnesses

If there are any parents, teachers, neighbors, or friends who have observed the behavior and neglect from the other parent, we can interview these individuals and present it as evidence in court.

Terminating Rights of the Other Parent: What Does It Mean for the Child’s Future?

California Family Code Section 7820 provides that the family law court can terminate the parental and custodial rights of a parent who has neglected or abandoned their child. In terms of abandonment, you might be able to prove that the other parent has abandoned the child and terminate their custodial rights if the other parent has failed to provide financial support, has had little or no contact with the child for over a year, or if they had intent to abandon the child.

Terminating the other parent’s rights would prevent them from exercising custodial or visitation rights with your child in the future. This termination is a final decision by the court. Moving forward, if you were to win this case, you would be the sole custodial parent for the child. Once the court establishes a custodial agreement, it is difficult to reverse the order in favor of the other parent, but it is possible. A custody modification would need to be approved by the court in order for the ruling to no longer be legally binding.

If you are ready to get you and your child the freedom you deserve and fight for the custody arrangement that is in their best interest, call Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law at (818) 839-2533 or contact us online.