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Proving Emotional Abuse in New York Child Custody Cases

Posted on April 28, 2020

There are no bruises, cuts, concussions or broken bones – but there are broken hearts and broken spirits. Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse, and perhaps even more so. Emotional abuse of children may include verbal assaults—such as a barrage of criticism and insults—or isolating, terrorizing, ignoring, rejecting, neglecting or exploiting a child. Whether that child is five years old or 15 years old, they are especially vulnerable to emotional abuse—especially when it comes from a parent, the very person who is supposed to love, protect and care for them.

In custody cases, charges of one parent’s emotional abuse of a child are all too often used as a weapon of revenge by the other parent, making matters even worse for children. But when the abuse is real, it’s imperative to make a case that is convincing and will keep that child, your child, safe from further harm.

What’s required to prove emotional abuse?

According to an article published by the New York Courts, signs of emotional abuse and/or neglect may include “a state of diminished psychological or intellectual functioning in relation to, but not limited to such factors” as:

  • Failure to thrive
  • Control of aggressive or self-destructive impulses
  • Ability to think and reason
  • Acting out or misbehavior, including incorrigibility, ungovernability or habitual truancy

In order for it to be caused by emotional abuse, it must be “attributable to acts of or failures” of the respondent (that is, the parent or person against whom a petition has been filed). And in order to prove that both the emotional abuse exists and that a parent was neglectful or abusive, you can request (or the court may order) a mental health study (MHS) or forensic evaluation during custody proceedings. According to the American Psychological Association, questions in a study or evaluation include, among others:

  • What maltreatment of the child, if any, occurred in this case?
  • If maltreatment has occurred, how seriously has the child’s psychological well-being been affected?
  • What therapeutic interventions would be recommended to assist the child?
  • Can the parent be successfully treated to prevent harm to the child in the future” If so, how” If not, why not?
  • What would be the psychological effect upon the child if returned to the parent? What would be the psychological effect upon the child if separated from the parent or if parental rights are terminated?

Emotional or any type of child abuse or neglect is a serious charge that the courts take seriously. As experienced child custody attorneys in New York City, we can help you identify issues and evidence that would help establish a case of emotional abuse or neglect.

Helping protect children in cases of emotional abuse or neglect

If you feel your child is suffering from emotional abuse by their other parent, call us at (212)-349-1600 or contact us online immediately to set up a confidential consultation to discuss your concerns.