During a divorce, it is important for a judge or mediator to craft a child custody agreement that suits the child’s best interests. Considerations may include the financial situation of both parents, proximity to the child’s school and community, and the presence of dangerous factors, such as a history of child abuse or domestic violence.
While Indiana courts try to craft a plan that is safe for the child, a parent may become abusive or neglectful after the state finalizes the divorce. If you suspect your former spouse is neglecting your child, taking action immediately can protect your child from further harm.
What Is Child Neglect?
All parents have the responsibility to care for their children, providing for their basic needs such as shelter, food, and clothing. Parents must also support their children’s social and emotional health, make sure they have access to adequate medical care, and enroll them in school.
If a parent fails to meet their child’s basic physical and emotional needs, he or she commits an act of neglect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 7 children experience child abuse and neglect during any given year.
Signs of Child Neglect
Spotting neglect isn’t always easy, but there are some telltale signs that would be cause for alarm. Children who are victims of neglect may exhibit the following symptoms.
- Wearing soiled, torn, or ill-fitting clothing, or inappropriate clothing for the weather
- Listlessness or fatigue
- Seeming hungry, stealing or hoarding food, or going to school with little or no food
- Claiming to care for younger siblings
- Poor hygiene, such as smelling of urine or feces
- Emaciation and other signs of starvation
- Unattended medical or dental problems
You may also notice your former spouse exhibiting neglectful behavior, such as the following.
- Appearing indifferent toward your child
- Acting in an irrational or irresponsible manner
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Blaming the child for problems at home or school
- Denying the existence of your child
- Viewing your child as bad or a burden
What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Neglected
Neglect can put children in severe danger. Over 1,700 children died due to abuse and neglect in 2018, according to the CDC. If you believe your child is a victim of neglect, you can modify your custody agreement to prevent further visitation with your former spouse. However, you will need to prove to the court that neglect is taking place.
Once you realize neglect is possibly taking place, take the following steps to preserve evidence and protect your child.
- Call 911 if your child is in immediate danger.
- Take your child to the emergency room if he or she has any injuries, and collect documentation from your visit.
- Collect as much evidence as possible. Ask your child about your former spouse’s actions and write down any information. Take photographs of any visible injuries or signs of neglect, and collect the contact information of potential witnesses, such as teachers.
- Speak to your child custody lawyer. He or she will help you gather evidence and walk you through your legal options, as well as begin the initial steps to modify your custody agreement and terminate your former spouse’s parental rights.
If you have not done so already, contact your divorce attorney as soon as possible. He or she will help you craft a strong case for the courtroom, organizing and collecting evidence to prove that your child is suffering from neglect. Your attorney will help you amend your custody agreement to protect your child from harm, advocating for your best interests each step of the way.