Updated: May 10, 2021
Corporal punishment is a hot button issue for many people going through divorce and custody cases as parenting styles and opinions often differ dramatically when it comes to corporal punishment. It's important to know the facts so you and your co-parent can make informed decisions about the best way to discipline your children or, you can actively discuss this issue with them.
The law in Michigan says that a parent may use "reasonable force" to discipline a child. This can be generally interpreted to mean that only an "open hand" can be used and never above the shoulders. Force may not be "reasonable" if a mark is left on the child. Even a slight blow to a child's head can potentially cause serious damage to a developing child's brain. It's important to note that a third party should never use corporal punishment on your child.
So "spanking" a child with an open hand isn't necessarily illegal, but if that force is deemed to be excessive, which can include too many slaps, you may have Child Protective Services involved. It is, however, illegal to hit a child with an object. This can include a belt, stick, spoon, paddle, shoe, etc.
Spanking or other corporal punishment is generally greatly frowned upon in child custody cases as it is no longer considered an effective form of discipline for children due to its lack of effectiveness. A study of 160,000 children through UofM came to the conclusion that corporal punishment can cause long term psychological harm. The more a child was spanked growing up, the more likely they were to struggle with mental health issues, depression and drug use later in life.
Another finding of this study indicated that spanking did not actually seem to have any effect in increasing good behavior in children. So the one thing parents were doing thinking they were helping their children learn appropriate behavior was actually having the opposite effect. While many parents themselves may have been spanked growing up and are passing down the behavior in their own children, times have changed and the research does not indicate this is effective parenting. Parents can lose parenting time or custody over this issue.
Attorney Allison Greenlee Korr handles cases in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and all surrounding counties, call today for a consultation. 269-381-4471