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Is it illegal to spank my child?

Disciplining our children may be one of the more difficult aspects of parenthood, and “spanking” is a common method that generation after generation of American parents have utilized to correct misbehavior. In recent years, the act of “spanking” has been called into question by various interest groups. Some parents favor stern warnings, “time-outs,” or the loss of privileges. Others still adhere to the tried and true method of spanking, a method that their parents may have used. When does a disciplinary method cross the line? First, it is worth exploring the question, “who is allowed to punish a child in the first place?” If you have legal questions relating to a charge or crime, please speak with your local Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer for an expert consultation.

In Virginia, a child may be punished by a person acting “in loco parentis.”  “In loco parentis” means “in the place of a parent.” This term covers custodial parents, foster parents, and any other entity or person who bears responsibility for the minor. In one case, a nonparent was held to possess the right to discipline a minor in his care so long as the discipline was moderate and reasonable.  It is worth noting that the disciplined child was entrusted to the nonparent’s care. (See Flippo v. Com., 122 Va. 854, 94 S.E. 771 (1918).  If you have questions regarding the suitability of a parent, or if you are concerned about the welfare of your own children, please do not hesitate to call your local Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer.

We now know WHO can discipline a child as well as the standard (moderate, reasonable), but what does this actually mean? Whenever there is a need for the courts to determine whether a punishment inflicted upon a child by an entitled parent (or person in loco parentis) was reasonable, a number of factors are considered. The ultimate goal is to determine whether the punishment was excessive or permitted. The courts will analyze such factors as age, size, conduct of the child, method of punishment, and injury/damage sustained by the child. (See, e.g., Carpenter v. Com., 186 Va. 851, 44 S.E.2d 419 (1947).  Due to the fact that the courts will look to a variety of factors, cases with similar facts may still be decided differently when there are only subtle differences. Your trusted Virginia Beach Lawyer will pay attention to the details, and look for significant facts in your case that can be critical to the outcome of your case.