Children are entitled to special protection under the law, and that includes family law. Child custody and visitation rights are directly affected by evidence of child abuse, neglect, or dependency in all states. In some divorce cases where child custody is bitterly contested, one parent may allege that the other parent is not fit, and may provide evidence to support it. It is the right of the accused parent to deny these allegations, but first it may be helpful to understand what these terms mean.

Child abuse is primarily the intentional infliction of physical or emotional harm to a child, or creating an environment that may reasonably lead to physical injury of the child. This includes hitting, yelling, name-calling, false imprisonment, sexual contact, exploitation, and prostitution. It may also include corruption of a minor by allowing or encouraging immoral acts or behavior.

Child neglect is failure of a parent to give the child appropriate supervision, discipline and care, including medical or remedial care as necessary as well as proper nutrition and education. It may also be defined as the failure to ensure the physical safety and mental health of the minor.

Child dependency may be considered the offspring of the marriage between child abuse and neglect. It is a situation in which the child is temporarily or permanently removed from a parent who may be incapable of providing the necessary care and supervision of a child. It may be due to illness, addiction, disability, or incarceration of the parent, or due to the special needs of the child.

A parent who is unable to mount a convincing defense against allegations of any of these will almost certainly lose rights to child custody and visitation. If you are in a situation like this, consult with a family law attorney in your area for help.