In New Jersey, child abuse and neglect is defined far more broadly than most people would imagine. It’s not simply those egregious acts that come to mind when a person says child abuse. It’s not just beatings, burnings, sexual abuse, or abandonment. Those things are certainly included, but there are far more.
Neglect actually includes the definition of failing to exercise the minimum degree of care in providing for a child. That includes reckless disregard of known risks. When we think about neglect, we think about making mistakes, but in New Jersey, to be actionable as child neglect, it has to be something so severe that we said the parent was reckless.
Child abuse, on the other hand, includes things such as inflicting injuries but also allowing someone to inflict injuries on the child. It’s cases where the child wouldn’t have had an injury if it were not for some act or omission of the parent. The parent has the burden in those cases to prove that he or she is not responsible for the injuries, even if medical professionals can’t say exactly what caused the injuries.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com