When parents are together, they generally agree on how best to discipline their child. But this doesn’t always hold true when the parents separate or divorce. Disciplinary methods that were acceptable at one time to both parents can become points of contention.
The fact is, disciplining your child can be more difficult during custody proceedings. However, there are ways to resolve these matters between the parents. Hiring a knowledgeable Greenville, SC child custody lawyer is one of the most important steps you can take.
Parents Are Generally Free to Discipline as They See Fit
As a general matter, parents in Greenville, SC can discipline their children however they want. This includes what is commonly known as corporal punishment.
Of course, there are limits to this. Parents cannot abuse or neglect their children. That means inflicting discipline that “present[s] a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child.” It also means “excessive” corporal punishment.
However, corporal punishment or physical discipline is legal as long as it:
- Is administered by a parent or someone acting in loco parentis (e.g. teacher)
- Is used for the sole purpose of restraining or correcting the child
- Is reasonable in manner and moderate in degree
- Does not bring about permanent or lasting damage to the child; and
- Is not reckless or grossly negligent behavior by the parents.
When Discipline Becomes an Issue
While this is all well and good, child discipline is much more difficult when there’s a custody case. What one parent may see as “reasonable” discipline the other might see as abuse.
It’s also common for parents to have no actual objection to the discipline, but to act as though they do. In other words, one parent may attempt to use the other’s disciplinary tactics against the other. When it comes to divorce or custody, some parents are simply desperate and will use anything to gain leverage.
It is entirely possible that the other parent may call Greenville, SC child protective services to report your discipline. This will then open an investigation that could have devastating consequences on your parental rights.
On the other hand, the other parent may testify about your discipline in court. If the judge believes the discipline is excessive, he or she may consider it a form of domestic violence. In turn, the judge might limit your rights to be with the child or impose supervised visitation.
How to Protect Yourself
You have the right to discipline your child using reasonable, legal methods. And you have the right to do so without worrying that the other will use that discipline against you. So how can you protect yourself when custody proceedings are involved?
These are a few suggestions:
If there are any witnesses to your disciplinary methods, find them. These may include neutral third parties like teachers or coaches. But often they are family members. Either way, someone who has seen you actually discipline your child can provide details in court. Character witnesses can serve in this capacity as well. These witnesses can come in handy in refuting allegations that you abuse your child.
Write down details of how you actually discipline your child. Be specific, because the details will make a difference. Explain the various methods you use. Talk about how your child reacts. Discuss whether the discipline was effective. The more information you can recall and write down, the better. And the court will want to hear about the discipline in your own words.
Perhaps the best way to avoid misunderstandings (or misuse) of each other’s disciplinary methods is a parenting agreement. As soon as possible after separation, you should work with a Greenville, SC family law attorney to obtain one.
The parenting agreement can set clear rules on acceptable forms of discipline. It can even detail which kinds of discipline may not be used. Finally, the agreement can require the parents to mediate if they disagree about discipline. This can avoid the cost and hassle of going to court every time there’s a dispute.
Trust the Experience of Greenville Family Law
Child custody proceedings are serious. They could potentially deprive you of your parental rights. A bad outcome can mean you spend less quality time with your child. These proceedings can also prejudice you to the court in future hearings.
Raising a child is difficult enough. You don’t need the added stress of unfavorable court decisions. Let a dedicated child custody lawyer represent you. Call Greenville Family Law today at (864) 729-3900.