Handling Child Endangerment & Neglect Charges During Divorce Cases

Courtroom in session

Divorce is a messy process that brings up a lot of people’s dirty business. Among that dirty business is a child’s wellbeing. In some cases, this can even include child endangerment under the California penal code. Managing child custody during a divorce case is already difficult. When California child endangerment charges surface, you’ve opened up an entirely different can of worms. On top of the many other issues already present, the court must now weigh in on potential criminal liability for child neglect in California. That means many other processes are now being involved, and it’s important to know how to handle these types of situations. Keep reading for the key issues and solutions an attorney can help with in this article.

What Neglect Is

In order to understand what child endangerment and neglect are, it’s valuable to know about the concepts behind each.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Child Welfare Information Gateway outlines neglect or child endangerment as acts or failures to act on the part of a caretaker that leads to serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, exploitation, imminent risk of serious harm, or death. This failure on behalf of a caretaker occurs because of the reason of cruelty, mental incapacity, or immorality. Accordingly, these caretakers typically seem unfit to provide for the child’s basic needs.

How It’s Spotted

Identifying child endangerment in California typically relies on the symptoms or signs of child endangerment under the California penal code so there is legal precedent to take action. 

Signs of neglected children CPS will look for include:

  • The child struggles with their mental or physical state
  • The child abuses drugs or alcohol
  • The child lacks proper clothing and personal hygiene
  • The child claims no one is home to take care of them
  • The child begs for food or money or steals it
  • The child is lacking in proper health care, including dental care, vaccinations, or glasses
  • The child misses an inordinate amount of school

Any one of these can make a case for child neglect in California. If you feel as though your case may be impacted by any of the above issues, discuss it with your family and criminal defense attorney promptly to ensure a proper defense and fair resolution can be pursued.

Little girl playing in sand

State Intervention

Once child endangerment in California has been spotted, Child Protective Services (CPS) often takes action. CPS specializes in investigating child mistreatment and their care. It’s worth noting that CPS works for the court but operates separately from custody proceedings. So, the CPS’s findings don’t typically affect the divorce case directly. However, they still have an impact. The CPS can testify on behalf of a child’s best interests when the issue of custody arises. If an attorney knows about their findings, they can call them to testify. As a highly valued and trusted service, the CPS’s testimony leaves a lasting effect throughout the rest of the case.

The Custody Issue

Once the case has progressed further, the court may now step in to address parent custody. Notably, addressing Californian child endangerment in court changes depending on the habitation status of the parents. That is if the parents are separated and one is clearly guilty of child neglect in California while the other isn’t, custody will go to the non-neglectful parent. The court may even file an emergency custody petition to move things faster.

If the parents are together, one may still prove to be neglectful while the other isn’t, but this can be harder to prove and will require further investment in researching the facts. Also, courts tend to be somewhat biased in favor of the mother. A mother will be much more likely to retain full custody over a father unless her child’s endangerment under the California penal code is readily apparent.

Father and child in a field

Child Safety

Ultimately, ensuring that a child is safe is the most important facet of any cases involving child endangerment in California. Neglect manifests in many different ways, but once it’s evident, the state acts swiftly to guarantee the child is removed from such circumstances. 

If you want an experienced trial attorney who has your family’s best interest in mind and will fight for the best outcome for you and yours, get in touch with me and learn about the services available to you. I offer a free initial consultation, virtual legal support, and am dedicated to helping you pursue your case.

About Michael MacNeil

Michael C. MacNeil is a San Diego Family Law and Criminal Defense attorney. With a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law, MacNeil has a solid understanding of our justice system. As a member of the State Bar of California, MacNeal can practice before all courts in the state. MacNeil believes that the law should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. With over 20 years of experience, Michael C. MacNeil is passionate about the law and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you. Call Mr. MacNeil at 858-922-7098.