How Do Pennsylvania’s Family Laws Define Child Abuse?

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Family law attorneys in Pennsylvania may soon work with a new child abuse definition

There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there, in regards to Pennsylvania’s divorce laws and family laws and child abuse. How does it affect child custody? How is it even defined?

Currently, child abuse is defined as an:

“Act which causes non-accidental serious physical injury, sexual abuse/exploitation, serious physical neglect constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or failure to provide essentials of life.”

Notice the part that states “serious physical injury.” This may change very soon. Seven bills aimed at strengthening Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws passed unanimously through a Senate committee last month—which would effectively remove the word serious from that definition.

The proposed changes would lower that standard to just “bodily injury.”

The bills were prompted by recommendations from the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection and they would:

  • Update the state’s definition of child abuse
  • Clarify who is a mandatory reporter of such abuse
  • Increase penalties for failing to report abuse, among a number of other changes.

The bills will now head to the appropriations committee, then to the full Senate for a vote. Floor votes are planned for most or all of the bills and they are expected to pass.

If you have any questions about family mediation in Pennsylvania, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our family lawyers any time.

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