Discipline, or Child Abuse? Is Spanking Okay in Michigan (Pt 1)

March 7, 2019 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
Spanking kids with belts or wooden spoons often leaves marks, and so parents are encouraged to use only their hands and not hit hard enough to leave a mark.

This is a touchy subject, we know. People tend to feel very strongly about this, one way or another, and there’s very little middle ground. Couple that with the fact that we live in a time when parent’s rights are almost constantly being questioned, if not violated, and you have a subject people are really reluctant to talk about. However, let’s be honest, the less we talk about something, the less chance we have to discover new information about that subject, or find out what the legal implications might be. So let’s take a minute to check out the facts on spanking your kids

Michigan parents ARE allowed to spank their children.

Regardless of how you may feel about it, the law in Michigan allows parents to spank their children for the purposes of discipline. However, the law is also clear on the fact that only reasonable force can be used when spanking a child (although many people would argue that without a breakdown of exactly what reasonable force involves, it isn’t very clear at all.)

Why does spanking sometimes get called child abuse in Michigan?

This is a tough one. Surely, if the law allows parents to spank their kids, it doesn’t make sense that you periodically read about Michigan parents in the news who are facing abuse charges for that very form of discipline, right? Technically, spanking, when done ‘correctly’ is considered to be different from child abuse because of the legal definition of abuse. Under Michigan law, child abuse is defined as:

harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare that occurs through non accidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or maltreatment.

So how exactly are you supposed to spank your kids?

Confused? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many parents in the Great Lakes state struggle to figure out exactly how to parent according to their principles, while still staying on the right side of the law. Maybe this will help: A safe rule of thumb would be if you’re spanking a child because you’re disciplining them, and the spanking doesn’t cause any wounds or lasting damage, then it should be fine.( We say “should be” because there is no hard and fast rule you can follow, and once CPS gets involved it gets very confusing!)

Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean you won’t get into trouble.

The truth is, spanking, while entirely legal, can be something of a grey area. A CPS worker can claim that a parent spanks too often, or too forcefully, or uses too many strikes when disciplining a child. And suddenly, despite the fact that you were doing something you were certain was totally legal, you’re now facing a CPS investigation and possibly even criminal charges. Sounds ridiculous, but it happens. Which is where we come in.

The right defense lawyer can make all the difference.

Join us next time for a look at what CPS in Michigan has to say about spanking, and a few examples of local spanking cases where parents had to fight for their rights. Until then, if you’ve been wrongfully charged for disciplining your child, contact our skilled and experienced child abuse defense attorneys immediately at 866-346-5879. We’ve been defending parents and protecting their rights successfully for decades, we can help you through this difficult time as well.