In some senses, whether child abuse has happened seems very straightforward. Did you physically harm the child? Are the accusations against you grounded in reality?

In actual practice, though, it’s not always that clear-cut. For instance, striking a child is typically considered abuse, but the major exception is if it counts as “reasonable parental discipline.”

These lines can get confusing. For some, spanking a child is a normal part of disciplining them. This used to be quite common and has become less so over the years, but it certainly still happens. Many parents feel that this type of correction is effective and can help children grow up to respect their elders and the rules that are set in place for them.

Others, though, see spanking as direct physical abuse of the child. They would never use it as a disciplinary tactic. They feel that striking a child in any manner is crossing a line.

If you’re facing abuse allegations that took you by surprise, this could be the reason. Maybe you and the child’s other parent were never married, and so you never talked about disciplinary tactics. When the child is with you, you use the same sort of punishments you grew up with. When the other parent finds out, though, they accuse you of abusing the child and attempt to take sole custody. You consider yourself a wonderful parent, and you can’t believe the types of things that they’re saying about you.

Issues like this can get very serious and could include life-changing criminal accusations. Make sure you know exactly what legal options you have.