Question: I’m a Georgia father who has full custody of his five-year-old daughter but her mother has visitation rights. I have long suspected my ex-wife was abusing our daughter during visits and that was confirmed after this weekend’s visit to her mother when my daughter came home distraught, with bruises on her arms and legs, telling me her mother had beaten her several times for spilling juice on the floor just once and that she didn’t want to be left with her mommy anymore. Can I have my daughter’s mother prosecuted for child abuse and limit or prevent further visits?
Answer: Yes. Under O.C.G.A. 19-15-3(A), child abuse is defined as, “Physical injury or death inflicted upon a child by a parent or caretaker thereof by other than accidental means….” The law differentiates spanking from abuse in that, under that Code Section, “physical forms of discipline may be used as long as there is no physical injury to the child.” If the child’s body shows evidence of physical injury, like the bruises you describe, under Georgia law, that is considered child abuse and a parent who commits child abuse can be arrested and prosecuted.
In order for the daughter’s mother to face prosecution for suspected abuse, you must first contact law enforcement in your jurisdiction, who are considered “abuse investigators” under the law, and make a verbal and written report to them. They will talk to the child, examine the child and document any physical injuries. And, if they determine that the child shows evidence of having been physically abused and the mother is the likely culprit, they will coordinate the questioning and, potentially, the arrest and prosecution of the child’s mother in her jurisdiction.
More than likely, they also will contact the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) about the alleged abuse. The Agency will conduct its own investigation to determine if it is in the best interest of the daughter to spend unsupervised visitation time with her mother. However, while DFCS can suspend visits to the mother, legal modification of a visitation order will have to be made in court by a judge and can be done based on police reports and DFCS’ investigation.
If you have questions about alleged child abuse, child visitation order modification or any other family law matter, please call The Boddie Law Group, LLC at (404) 287-2393 for a full and thorough legal consultation. Visit our website to learn about our attorneys.