Is spanking domestic violence?

Domestic violence is never OK. But not every instance of violence in family interactions amounts to domestic violence. That being so, you would expect that it would be easier to know where the line is so that it no one would cross it.

Unfortunately, it's not easy. What one parent might consider abuse might be deemed reasonable discipline others. This is a view that recently was reinforced in a decision by the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles.

At issue was a Juvenile Court judge's order requiring a Los Angeles County woman to undergo special parental education and counseling. The trigger for the order was her spanking of her children using her hand and a shoe.

The spankings occurred in 2014. According to court documents, county welfare workers went to the woman's home about reports that she was yelling and beating her two boys. They were 4 and 7 at the time. She had sole custody of the youngsters.

When interviewed, the mother acknowledged that she occasionally spanked the boys with her hand or a sandal, but she said she usually used nonphysical means of discipline. No action was taken at the time but about a month later, the woman's estranged husband went to the house and raped her. The children were home at the time.

That's when the Juvenile Court judge stepped in. She said the domestic violence was one reason she acted, but she also determined that the mother's use of a shoe to spank one of her children amounted to intentionally causing harm. The order for classes and counseling followed.

Late last year, the appeals court told the judge to reconsider the order. The majority said no evidence had been introduced by anyone that the children had suffered any marks or bruises from the spankings. It noted that California law allows for reasonable discipline and that parents who use it can't be held legally responsible.

What this shows is that domestic violence can be subject to interpretation. Those who are victims deserve all the protections that the law provides. At the same time, those who are wrongly accused for whatever reason deserve the law's full protection as well. In either instance, seeking help from an experienced attorney is advised.

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