Child Abuse & Neglect Laws in Florida (2022)

In Florida, some of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes are those involving children and child abuse. Child abuse, aggravated child abuse, and neglect of a child are serious allegations that have severe penalties if a person is convicted.

More recently, we are hearing about parents or guardians prosecuted for child neglect. “deplorable” living conditions, leaving children in hot vehicles-and the list goes on and on. Sadly, some of these incidents have resulted in death. If the child didn’t die but suffered injuries (and based on the extent of those injuries), the parent may still be prosecuted. A person may be charged with child abuse, aggravated child abuse, or neglect of a child.

If you are being charged with Child Abuse or Neglect, you need an experienced attorney to defend you. Call us now at 727-531-2926 or fill out a quick contact form.

(Video) The Future of Florida’s Children Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

What is Considered Child Abuse in Florida?

Under Florida law, child abuse is committed by:

  1. The intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child;
  2. An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; or
  3. Active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

Florida’s child abuse law is written to cover a broad range of intentional acts against a child, whether the action is physical or mental. Mental abuse can come in different forms and are often more challenging to detect and prove, especially if the child is younger. If the child is in school, teachers are typically the first (outside of close family members and friends) to be able to detect that mental abuse is occurring, especially if they have mental health training.

It is also very common for school officials to notice bruises or injuries on children who are attending schools. Teachers are mandatory reporters. If your child goes to school with bruising that causes concern and suspicion for the school official, the incident must be reported.

You may be arrested for child abuse if you are caught driving under the influence (DUI) with a child in the vehicle. Many people are unaware of this. The typical scenario is a mom is running late and asks dad to pick up the child from school. Dad was not expecting the change in plans and had been at happy hour with a couple of his co-workers. Dad then leaves and drives to pick up the child and is pulled over for speeding or swerving and arrested for DUI. Most law enforcement agencies will add the additional charge of child abuse because the individual has intentionally put the child in the vehicle and endangered the child by driving under the influence.

(Video) Child Abuse Florida Statute 827

What is Considered Aggravated Child Abuse in Florida?

Under Florida law,aggravated child abuse is committed when a person:

  1. Commits aggravated battery on a child;
  2. Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cases a child; or
  3. Knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing, causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

Aggravated Child Abuse is a first-degree felony that puts it in the category of the most egregious crimes. Typically, the incidents are severe, and the injuries to the child suggest serious abuse or neglect. With that said, merely because someone is arrested for aggravated child abuse doesn’t mean that they are guilty. There are legitimate defenses to these serious allegations, and people can be wrongly accused. It is crucial to make sure you hire an experienced and aggressive attorney who is prepared to investigate and analyze these types of cases to ensure you are not wrongfully convicted. Sometimes, a legitimate explanation can be offered early in a case to avoid a long, gruesome, and expensive criminal defense.

What is Considered Neglect of a Child in Florida?

Under Florida law, neglect of a child is committed by:

  1. A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
  2. A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.

A person can be convicted of Neglect of a Child by being culpably negligent. For negligence to be considered “culpable negligence,” it must be gross and flagrant and committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the person must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

(Video) SNN: Florida is toughing it's laws on Child Abuse

What are the Legal Penalties for Child Abuse in Florida?

Child Abuse is a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a $5000.00 fine.

Aggravated Child Abuse is a felony of the first-degree which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, and a $10,000.00 fine.

Neglect of a Childthat does not result in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement is a felony of the third degreeand is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and a $5,000.00 fine.

Neglect of a Childthat does resultin great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement is a felony of the second degreeand is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a $10,000.00 fine.

(Video) Child Abuse and Neglect 101

What are the Legal Defenses for Child Abuse?

Some common defenses to child abuses cases include:

  • Use of reasonable physical discipline by a parent or person acting in place of a parent
  • False allegations
  • Lack of medical evidence or inconsistent medical evidence
  • Other causes of injury or injury caused by another person
  • Attempt or sufficient efforts made to render care to a child

If you are being charged with Child Abuse or Neglect, you need an experienced attorney to defend you. Call us now at 727-531-2926 or fill out a quick contact form.

Can I be Prosecuted for Failing to Report Child Abuse in Florida?

Yes. In the state of Florida, if you suspect or know that a child is or has been abused, you have a duty to report child abuse to law enforcement. Some professionals are considered mandatory reporters, and this can be confusing. Everyone has to report, and if you do not, you may face prosecution. Laypersons are not required to give their names, whereas “mandatory reporters” are so required.

Failure to report child abuse or neglect is a third-degree felony in Florida and can carry a penalty of up to 5 years in prison along with court costs and fines. When in doubt, report! Do not ignore child abuse or child neglect. If you have questions or concerns, consult an experienced child abuse/ child neglect attorney who can guide you through the process. You are not supposed to be the detective, the fact finder, or the evidence gatherer. But you do have the duty to report, regardless of your role or profession.

(Video) Florida parents wrongly accused of child abuse by state experts is ‘shocking,’ says Florida lawmaker

How Do I Report Child Abuse or Neglect in Florida?

There are numerous ways to report child abuse. First, you can call 911 and report incidents to your local law enforcement agency. You may also call the Florida Abuse Hotline or report online through the Department of Children and Families.

FAQs

What qualifies as child neglect in Florida? ›

Florida Statutes Title XLVI Chapter 827.03(e) defines neglect as: When a caregiver fails or omits to give a child the necessary supervision, care, and services needed to maintain the child's mental and physical health.

What happens if you get charged with child neglect in Florida? ›

In Florida, the crime of Child Neglect Causing Great Bodily Harm, Permanent Disability, or Permanent Disfigurement is a Second Degree Felony and punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in prison, fifteen (15) years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.

Is child neglect a crime in Florida? ›

Under Florida law, the crime of Child Neglect occurs where a “caregiver” wilfully or negligently fails to take reasonable steps to protect the welfare of a child. Due to the vulnerability of children and their need for protection, child neglect charges are vigorously prosecuted throughout Florida.

What happens if you get charged with child neglect? ›

The penalties for child neglect range from jail time to heavy fines, but perhaps the largest penalty is custody of your child. If Child Protective Services gets involved in your case, you will face a series of hearings to discuss your allegations and a potential relocation plan for your child.

What are some examples of child neglect? ›

Observable signs of neglect on the child's person may include:
  • dirty skin.
  • offensive body odor.
  • unwashed, uncombed hair.
  • undersized, oversized, or unclean clothing.
  • clothing inappropriate for the weather.
  • frequent lack of supervision.
13 Dec 2021

What is considered neglect of a child? ›

'Neglect' means negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, or supervision. The term 'abuse' includes nonaccidental mental injury.

What is Florida Chapter 415? ›

Mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of vulnerable adults; mandatory reports of death. Facility's duty to inform residents of their right to report abusive, neglectful, or exploitive practices. Immunity.

Why is Circle of parents successful? ›

Circle of Parents® provides a friendly, supportive environment facilitated by trained facilitators, but led by parents and other caregivers. It's a place where anyone in a parenting role can openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children. It's a place where they can find and share support.

What is passive neglect? ›

Passive neglect – the failure by a caregiver to provide a person with the necessities of life including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, because of failure to understand the person's needs, lack of awareness of services to help meet needs, or lack of capacity to care for the person.

What is willful neglect? ›

Willful neglect means conscious, intentional failure or reckless indifference to the obligation to comply with the administrative simplification provision violated.

What is lack of parenting? ›

Uninvolved parenting, sometimes referred to as neglectful parenting, is a style characterized by a lack of responsiveness to a child's needs. Uninvolved parents make few to no demands of their children and they are often indifferent, dismissive, or even completely neglectful.

How long is child abandonment in Florida? ›

A parent who drops off his or her child at a relative's home and then vanishes can be found to have abandoned the child if a sufficient period of time has passed. In addition, a parent who cannot be located for 60 or more days can have his or her parental rights terminated by the court.

Is child abandonment a felony in Florida? ›

The crime of child abandonment (child desertion) is a third degree felony as well. Florida law has established standards for expert testimony in prosecutions for child abuse in general.

Does Florida law require that you report suspected abuse or neglect within 30 days? ›

Florida law requires that you report suspected abuse or neglect to the abuse hotline within 30 days. Not all states have a reporting statute that defines who must report suspected child abuse and neglect.

What is the punishment for abusing a child? ›

Provided also that on account of the aforesaid cruelty, if the child is physically incapacitated or develops a mental illness or is rendered mentally unfit to perform regular tasks or has risk to life or limb, such person shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment, not less than three years but which may be ...

Is child neglect a criminal offence? ›

Child abuse includes physical, emotional and sexual criminal offences, as well as neglect, of a child.

Is neglect a criminal offence? ›

Introduction. Under Section 20 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 it is a criminal offence for an individual to ill treat or wilfully neglect another individual of whom s/he has the care by virtue of being a care worker.

What are the 5 types of child neglect? ›

Let's take a look at the types of neglect.
  • Physical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary food, clothing, and shelter; inappropriate or lack of supervision.
  • Medical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment.
  • Educational Neglect. ...
  • Emotional Neglect.
27 Dec 2018

What is the most powerful predictor of child neglect? ›

Substance abuse emerged as the strongest predictor of neglect status as well as of parental disposition and adequacy of home environment.

What is considered abuse or neglect? ›

Abuse means mistreatment and an attempt to harm another person or thing. Neglect means failure to prevent somebody or something from being harmed. Abuse can be physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, financial or spiritual. Neglect can be physical, psychological, medical or educational.

What happens when a child is exposed to violence? ›

[1] Exposure to violence can harm a child's emotional, psychological and even physical development. Children exposed to violence are more likely to have difficulty in school, abuse drugs or alcohol, act aggressively, suffer from depression or other mental health problems and engage in criminal behavior as adults.

What kinds of questions does CPS ask a child? ›

The questions that are asked will evaluate whether your child has experienced neglect, physical abuse, mental abuse and/or sexual abuse.
...
Questions about Sexual Abuse
  • Has anyone touched you inappropriately?
  • Does (this person) make you uncomfortable?
  • Can you tell me what happened?
  • When did it happen? Where did it happen?
4 Jun 2020

What does parental emotional abuse look like? ›

"Emotional abuse includes behaviors by caregivers that includes verbal and emotional assault such as continually criticizing, humiliating, belittling or berating a child, as well as isolating, ignoring, or rejecting a child," psychotherapist Mayra Mendez, Ph.

What is Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes? ›

Chapter 39, Florida Statutes, provides a method for obtaining an injunction to protect a child from abuse or domestic violence. Section 39.504 outlines a procedure similar to that followed in domestic violence proceedings.

Is Florida a mandatory reporting state? ›

MANDATORY REPORTERS

A professionally mandatory reporter of child abuse/neglect is required by Florida Statute to provide his or her name to the Abuse Hotline Counselor when reporting.

What is circle of parents based on the idea of? ›

For example, groups are always free, confidential, anonymous, and non-judgmental, and promote positive and non-abusive parenting. Circle of Parents is based on the following network standards to guide groups: The groups utilize the mutual self-help support model.

What is egregious neglect? ›

Egregious Neglect

A gross failure to adequately provided for, or a callous indifference to, the health, safety, or medical needs of an individual, and. results in an individual's death or other serious deterioration of an individual's physical or mental condition.

What type of abuse is involuntary seclusion? ›

Involuntary seclusion is a form of nursing home abuse where a resident is isolated or confined to a specific area such as a bedroom.

What is wanton negligence? ›

Wanton disregard is a serious accusation that indicates that a person behaved extremely recklessly and is most commonly used in an insurance context, where it refers to negligence to describe reckless behavior that has led to damages or injury.

What is deliberate negligence? ›

Willful negligence is the type of negligence that is deliberate with the intentional disregard for others.

What is willful misconduct? ›

Willful misconduct involves deliberate or intentional wrongdoing with knowledge of, or wanton and reckless disregard of, its probable consequences.

What is cold mother syndrome? ›

Emotionally absent or cold mothers can be unresponsive to their children's needs. They may act distracted and uninterested during interactions, or they could actively reject any attempts of the child to get close. They may continue acting this way with adult children.

What are signs of toxic parents? ›

Signs you might have a toxic parent include:
  • They're self-centered. They don't think about your needs or feelings.
  • They're emotional loose cannons. They overreact, or create drama.
  • They overshare. ...
  • They seek control. ...
  • They're harshly critical. ...
  • They lack boundaries.

What is a neglectful mother? ›

Report Ad. These neglectful parents are uninvolved in their child's life. They do not meet their child's needs, whether it's basic or emotional needs. They also do not set boundaries or discipline their children. Children of uninvolved parents receive little nurturing or guidance from their parents.

What makes a parent unfit in Florida? ›

In Florida, there are several things that may make a parent unfit. According to Florida Statute 751.05, in order for a parent to be found unfit, they must have abused, neglected, or abandoned the child. A parent may also be found “unfit” if they have a recent or long-standing history of drug abuse or mental illness.

How do you lose parental rights in Florida? ›

Under Florida Statute 39.806, parental rights may be terminated due to a number of circumstances including: voluntary surrender by the parent; abandonment; conduct that threatens the life, safety, well-being, physical, mental or emotional health of the child; when a parent is incarcerated; when the state has ...

How do you prove an unfit parent? ›

Circumstances in California that Make a Parent Unfit for having Child Custody
  1. History and evidence of abuse or violence.
  2. Lack of involvement in the child's life.
  3. Incapacity to provide financial support.
  4. Having an existing mental illness.
  5. History of an extremely hostile relationship with the child.
12 Apr 2022

At what age can a child refuse to see a parent in Florida? ›

To be clear, there is no age at which a minor child can entirely refuse visitation if the court has determined that parents should both have custody, or time-sharing, with the child. Once the child turns 18, the child can refuse to see the other parent.

How do I prove parental abandonment in Florida? ›

To establish abandonment, you must show that the parent is able to significantly contribute to the child's care and maintenance or that the parent has failed to establish and maintain a positive and substantial relationship with the child.

What is the difference between child neglect and abandonment? ›

Neglect which leads to physical harm through withholding of services necessary to maintain health and well-being. Abandonment, including desertion or willful forsaking of an elderly person or the withdrawal or neglect of duties and obligations owed an elderly person by a caretaker or other person.

What is considered child neglect in Florida? ›

Florida Statutes Title XLVI Chapter 827.03(e) defines neglect as: When a caregiver fails or omits to give a child the necessary supervision, care, and services needed to maintain the child's mental and physical health.

What are the mandatory reporting laws in Florida? ›

Mandated Reporter (General): o Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child's welfare is a mandatory reporter. § 39.201(1)(a).

What happens if you get charged with child neglect? ›

The penalties for child neglect range from jail time to heavy fines, but perhaps the largest penalty is custody of your child. If Child Protective Services gets involved in your case, you will face a series of hearings to discuss your allegations and a potential relocation plan for your child.

Does Florida law require that you report suspected abuse or neglect within 30 days? ›

Florida law requires that you report suspected abuse or neglect to the abuse hotline within 30 days. Not all states have a reporting statute that defines who must report suspected child abuse and neglect.

Does Florida law recognize educational neglect as a type of abuse or neglect? ›

Note: Florida law does not recognize “educational neglect” as a type of abuse or neglect in itself.

How Long Does DCF have to investigate a case in FL? ›

How long is an investigation? The investigation regarding your child is required to be completed within 60 days, except in cases involving a child death, missing child, or when law enforcement has an open criminal investigation.

Is Florida a mandatory reporting state? ›

MANDATORY REPORTERS

A professionally mandatory reporter of child abuse/neglect is required by Florida Statute to provide his or her name to the Abuse Hotline Counselor when reporting.

What are the mandatory reporting laws in Florida? ›

Mandated Reporter (General): o Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child's welfare is a mandatory reporter. § 39.201(1)(a).

What is the punishment for abusing a child? ›

Provided also that on account of the aforesaid cruelty, if the child is physically incapacitated or develops a mental illness or is rendered mentally unfit to perform regular tasks or has risk to life or limb, such person shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment, not less than three years but which may be ...

Which of the following is considered neglect of a child? ›

'Neglect' means negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, or supervision.

Which behavior could be reason to suspect abuse? ›

That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as: Withdrawal from friends or usual activities. Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance. Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence.

What are valid reasons to call CPS? ›

This includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional maltreatment, and exposure to domestic violence. Neglect refers to situations in which a child's caregiver fails to provide adequate clothing, food or shelter, deliberately or otherwise.

What are the 4 types of mandatory reporters? ›

020(10), mandatory reporters are: DSHS employees. Law enforcement. Social workers and professional school personnel.

What makes a parent unfit in Florida? ›

In Florida, there are several things that may make a parent unfit. According to Florida Statute 751.05, in order for a parent to be found unfit, they must have abused, neglected, or abandoned the child. A parent may also be found “unfit” if they have a recent or long-standing history of drug abuse or mental illness.

Can social services take my child away without evidence? ›

Can social services take my child away without evidence? No, there must be evidence in support of the application from social services when they are asking the court to remove your child/ren from your home.

Can DCF take my child away Florida? ›

If DCF believes your children have been abused, abandoned or neglected, or are at risk of imminent abuse, abandonment or neglect they can physically remove your children. Under Florida law there must be an emergency hearing held within twenty-four (24) hours of removal.

What is Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes? ›

Chapter 39, Florida Statutes, provides a method for obtaining an injunction to protect a child from abuse or domestic violence. Section 39.504 outlines a procedure similar to that followed in domestic violence proceedings.

Can you get in trouble for not reporting a crime in Florida? ›

Penal Code 148.5 PC makes it a misdemeanor to make a false report of a crime to the police force or other authorities. As a misdemeanor under the criminal justice system, a person convicted faces up to six months in county jail.

Is child neglect a type of abandonment? ›

Physical neglect is one of the most widely recognized forms. It includes: Abandonment—the desertion of a child without arranging for his reasonable care or supervision. Usually, a child is considered abandoned when not picked up within 2 days.

Videos

1. Who has a duty to report suspected child neglect and abuse in Florida?
(Zisser Law)
2. FICW Interview Series — Chris Lolley — Prevent Child Abuse Florida
(Florida Institute for Child Welfare)
3. Reaching Out: Child abuse, when and how to report.
(Cook Children's Health Care System)
4. Florida Child Abuse Laws Dean Tong
(Dean Tong)
5. Who has a duty to report suspected child neglect and abuse in Florida?
(Butash and Donovan)
6. How to Recognize Child Abuse and Neglect (Training Video)
(ProCPR)

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