Domestic Violence, Stalking or Sexual Assault : Corporal Punishment and Domestic Violence

Can a parent’s corporal punishment (physical discipline) of a minor child constitute unlawful “domestic violence” in Ohio?

Under Ohio law corporal punishment (physical discipline) is the right of the parent. "Reasonable" parental discipline is neither domestic violence nor child endangering. Most cases of child abuse are brought under the child endangering stature, R.C. 2919.22, rather than the domestic violence statute. However, there have been some cases where parents have been criminally charged under the domestic violence statute, R.C. 2919.25, instead of under the child endangering statute.

It is also possible for a child to obtain a civil protection order (CPO) against a parent based on the parent’s domestic violence against the child?

The major legal test (as set forth by the Ohio Supreme Court), is whether the parent’s actions constituted “proper and reasonable parental discipline.” State v. Suchomoski, 58 Ohio St.3d 74 (1991). In Suchomoski, the Supreme Court clearly indicated that “proper and reasonable discipline stops well short of corporal punishment which creates a substantial risk of serious physical harm to a child.” Since Suchomoski, the lower courts have issued a number of sometimes conflicting and confusing decisions as to where the line for “proper and reasonable parental discipline” should be drawn. In one case, the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals held that a parent’s corporal punishment of their minor child may constitute unlawful domestic violence even if it does not arise to the level of child endangering (child abuse) under R.C. 2919.22. Reynolds v. White, 1999 W.C. 754496, No. 74506 (8th Dist. Ct. App. Cuyahoga, September 23, 1999).

What factors are considered by the courts in determining whether corporal punishment of a minor child is excessive and thus constitutes domestic violence?

The courts usually look at several factors for determining whether corporal punishment is proper and reasonable:

  1. the child’s age,

  2. the child’s behavior,

  3. the child’s response to non-corporal punishment, and

  4. the location and severity of the punishment.

See State v. Hart, 110 Ohio 3d 250 (Defiance 1996). The child’s and the parent’s demeanor at the time of the corporal punishment may also be relevant factors. For example, in an Illinois case, the court determined that the mother’s act of using a wooden spoon to spank her child, resulting in a one-inch bruise, did not by itself constitute abuse because the child appeared happy and unaffected and the mother displayed a calm demeanor at the time of the spankings.

Can a minor child obtain a domestic violence civil protection order (CPO) against a parent?

Yes. A child can obtain a CPO against an abusive parent. However, the more common procedure is for the other parent to file a CPO petition asking that the child be named as one of the parties protected under the CPO. If the minor child does seek to file the CPO petition on his or her own behalf, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child in the CPO proceeding.

Can a parent or grandparent obtain a domestic violence civil protection order (CPO) on behalf of their child or grandchild?

Yes. A parent or grandparent can file a CPO petition seeking a domestic violence CPO for their own protection and/or the protection of any other family or household member. There is a high correlation between spousal abuse and child abuse, which suggests that in many cases a CPO is needed to protect both the spouse (parent) and her child from further abuse. Moreover, the abuser may sometimes hurt or kidnap the child in order to strike back at his adult partner. Therefore, it is important that in every case where the child is at risk of harm from the abuser, that the child be listed as a protected party in the CPO.

For more information on domestic violence visit the Ohio Domestic Violence Resource Center.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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