This blog will explain the Michigan Child Neglect and Abuse laws and conclude with some of our legal strategies which are utilized to defend a client charged with child abuse or neglect. Our criminal defense attorneys approach child abuse and neglect cases with the utmost diligence and care. We invariably will recommend that a person who is investigated for child abuse or neglect refrain from discussing the case with anyone until a criminal defense lawyer is retained.
The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) is the government entity that is responsible for investigating suspecting reports regarding child abuse and neglect. DHS then makes a recommendation to the Family Court as to whether they think you are guilty of child neglect and/or for possible termination of parental rights. In addition, these reports are turned in to the police for possible criminal charges of child abuse or neglect. Names of individuals are placed on the statewide abuse and neglect Central Registry if there is a preponderance of evidence that the individual has abused or neglected their child and the future risk to the child is high or intensive.
The Michigan statutory definition of child neglect is: harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare by a parent, legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child’s health or welfare that occurs through either: (1) negligent treatment, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, or (2) placing a child at an unreasonable risk to the child’s health or welfare by failure of the parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for the child’s health or welfare to intervene to eliminate that risk when that person is able to do so and has, or should have, knowledge of the risk.
Child neglect is when a child is harmed or threatened to be harmed by the failure to provide for the child or the failure to intervene when the child is already being harmed. A child neglect case does not require intentional conduct to harm the child but only a negligent act or failure to act.
The Michigan statutory definition of Child Abuse is: harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare that occurs from non-accidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or maltreatment by a parent, legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child’s health or welfare.
Legal Strategies and Defenses
In many cases of alleged child abuse or neglect, a case may be resolved after the DHS has conducted an investigation. If the police get involved, they will invariably want to interview the child and parents for possible criminal charges. There are numerous concerns which our firm will explore in a case involving child abuse or neglect, such as:
-The child’s motives to lie (retaliation, attention getting)
-Psychological issues of the child -Whether the case involves “self defense”
-Possible manipulation of the child by a former spouse -Was the child restrained to prevent the child from self harm or harm to others
-Whether the parent’s conduct is excused because of “reasonable discipline”
Anyone facing a child abuse or child neglect case will lose the ability to think objectively. Most will react with anger and frustration which will often give the police and/or DHS the wrong impression. DHS initially has to deal with the allegations as though they are true for the protection of the child. This may mean removal of a child from the home during the pendency of an investigation. Every thing you say or do can have a lasting impact on a child neglect or child abuse case. For this reason, it is crucial to obtain legal representation at the earliest opportunity to set the record straight and avoid common mistakes or incriminating yourself.