Discipline, or Child Abuse? Is Spanking Okay in Michigan (Pt 3)

March 15, 2019 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
Hand with watch
CPS recommends that if you’re going to spank your children, you never use anything more than your own hand to do it.

Hi there, thanks for joining us for the wrap up of this discussion on spanking in Michigan, what parent’s rights are, and what you’re allowed to do when it comes to discipline. So far in this series we’ve looked at what the law says about spanking your kids (you’re allowed to use “reasonable force”), what you’re likely to get into trouble for (leaving marks, hitting kids with objects), and what other parents in Michigan have faced over the years when their discipline choices were called into question.

The law isn’t very clear on the issue of spanking.

Michigan law says that a parent may use “reasonable force,” when spanking a child. But that’s a very vague description. Much like “moderation” in drinking, every person’s idea of what defines “reasonable” is different. And the law doesn’t specify exactly what it deems to be “reasonable”. However, this is generally interpreted to mean that only an open hand can be used, and never above the shoulders, as even the slightest blow to the head can cause serious damage to a child’s developing brain.

Legal or not, CPS frowns on corporal punishment

It might be entirely within your rights for you to spank your children, but the fact is that a CPS worker will take one look at the fact that you hit your kids when they don’t do what you want them to, and they will disapprove. In their opinion, the line between physical discipline and physical abuse is too fine for most parents to see. (Unfortunately they’re sometimes right!) But in many instances they’re wrong, and loving parents are made into pariahs in the name of protecting children from abuse.

The use of “objects” when spanking a child

According to Michigan’s Department of Human Services, while spanking a child is not against the law, it is illegal to use an object to hit a child. What do they mean by ‘object’? Well, it could means anything, including a switch, a paddle, a belt, a cooking spoon, a shoe, a carpet beater, or any other object that could cause serious harm to a child’s body. So according to CPS, if you’re going to discipline your children by hitting them, you should be very careful to control yourself during the process, and not use anything other than your hand to deliver the blow.

We advise you to be very careful when choosing to spank your kids.

Brandy Thompson, a family law attorney with years of success fighting child abuse charges, says that once a report is made alleging physical abuse, parents are fighting an uphill battle. “Any mark on your child, even if it happened by accident, or not even in your presence, will be scrutinized and suspected. It’s a difficult situation for a parent that uses corporal punishment when there are unexplained marks on a child.”

And if you’re accused of abuse, get an attorney immediately!

Corporal punishment of children is a very controversial subject here in Michigan, and it likely always will be. But whether you advocate for spanking, or prefer other methods of discipline, remember that the choice is yours to make as a parent so long as those choices do not result in damage or injury to a child. In the event that you become involved in a police or CPS investigation where your parenting choices are questioned, or someone accuses you of child abuse, contact our experienced child abuse defense attorneys immediately at 800-576-6035. We can help.