Ask a Divorce Lawyer: I spanked my kid with my ex present and she says it’s child abuse. What can I do?

Question: I was granted primary custody of my children after there was sexual abuse at their mother’s house. While my kids were visiting me, with their mother/my ex present, I spanked my daughter with a belt for choking her brother. 

At the time, my ex told me it was ok with her if I disciplined my daughter in that way. The next morning, my wife took my daughter, who had small welts on her bottom, to the police and now the DCFS is investigating me for child abuse. 

Assuming they rule it was child abuse, what is the next step? Am I going to lose my children and return them to a home where sexual abuse has occurred multiple times? What should I expect from this?


Answer: You need to contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in Illinois with DCFS experience immediately.  Spanking a child and leaving welts on her bottom that last until the following morning is child abuse.  In addition to DCFS detaining your children, you could face criminal prosecution. 

Each state handles abuse allegation cases in a different manner.  I do not practice in Illinois, however, I have had a substantial number of similar cases in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin law refers to these cases as Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) cases.  When a referral is made to DCFS, a social worker investigates the situation which could lead to the Court detaining your children based on the allegations of physical abuse.  The court could place the children in the custody and care of the mother.  

However, if the social worker is aware of the sexual abuse, the worker will determine that neither parent is an appropriate placement option and will either try to find an appropriate relative to place the children with or place your children with a temporary foster home or group home. 

Because I do not practice in Illinois, I cannot tell you anything about the proceedings and what may happen in your case.  In addition to contacting a criminal attorney, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in Illinois.  Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Illinois.


Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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