As a Jacksonville Child Custody Attorney, I often see cases involving child abuse and child neglect. I run into these issues primarily in cases involving termination of parental rights or simply child custody disputes.
Florida defines abuse as "any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child's physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.
Neglect, on the other hand, "occurs when a child is deprived of, or is allowed to be deprived of, necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment or a child is permitted to live in an environment when such deprivation or environment causes the child's physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired or to be in danger of being significantly impaired. The foregoing circumstances shall not be considered neglect if caused primarily by financial inability unless actual services for relief have been offered to and rejected by such person. A parent or legal custodian legitimately practicing religious beliefs in accordance with a recognized church or religious organization who thereby does not provide specific medical treatment for a child may not, for that reason alone, be considered a negligent parent or legal custodian; however, such an exception does not preclude a court from ordering the following services to be provided, when the health of the child so requires:"
(a) Medical services from a licensed physician, dentist, optometrist, podiatric physician, or other qualified health care provider; or
(b) Treatment by a duly accredited practitioner who relies solely on spiritual means for healing in accordance with the tenets and practices of a well-recognized church or religious organization.
When I run into cases involving allegations of child abuse I always tell my clients of the importance of reporting such abuse. Florida Statute § 39.201 defines when it is required to report child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
To learn more about what Florida considers as child abuse and what you are required by law to do if you're aware of incidents of child abuse contact a Jacksonville Child Custody Attorney but if you ever find that you are being accused of these crimes or suspect that you will be charged, you should contact a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible to help prepare your statements and/or defend yourself. Sometimes we see charges like this that result from actions, which are intended to change the child custody situation and may not be based on events that actually happened or can be substantiated.