Parental Discipline

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It is not uncommon to see a parent being charged with domestic violence for discipling his or her child. Under Michigan law, it is not a crime to discipline a child. The question becomes whether the force used by the parent crossed the line from discipline and entered the relem of abuse.

A parent may use force to discipline a child. A parent who acts in good faith with an honest belief that the given discipline is done for the benefit of the child should not be subjected to judicial intervention. But this does not mean that any amount of force may be used. The law permits only such force as is reasonable.

Force is unreasonably inflicted upon a child when a parent maims the child or endangers the child’s life or health, or severely beats the child with an improper and dangerous instrument, though no permanent injury be given, or subjects the child to unusual forms of physical torture, or whips the child with such excessive severity as implies the absence of a due appreciation of parental duty. On the other hand, a parent acts with good faith and within the law when the parent uses moderate correction that inflicts temporary pain.

A parent is not required to prove that the acts alleged were reasonable. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force used was not reasonable as discipline.

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