One of the greatest fears any parent has is that their child will be abused, either physically or sexually.

When that abuse comes from an ex, it makes things even worse because that person has ready access to his or her victim — i.e., your child.

So, what should you do if you suspect your ex is physically or sexually abusing your child? Here are some tips and ideas:

  1. Be sure before you allege abuse.

Look, you don’t want to cry wolf about this sort of thing. I’ve been involved in countless cases in which one parent makes repeated, unfounded allegations of sexual or physical abuse. It never goes well for that person. They can lose custody and parent-time.

If there is no evidence to support an allegation of abuse, a judge will likely see you as (1) a liar, or (2) an opportunist. Please, don’t let that happen.

Also, these allegations are very serious and can ruin people’s lives, even if they are found to be false. That’s not good for your child if one parent’s life is in shambles.

Be sure before you make an allegation.

  1. Call the police or the Utah Division of Child and Family Service (a.k.a., Utah Child Protective Services).

This is where things begin. If you truly believe abuse has occurred, and you have proof it has, call the police or The Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). They will initiate an abuse investigation.

Often, if you call the police first, they will call DCFS and let DCFS handle the investigation. This is because DCFS has specialized methods and training for these types of investigations.

Don’t wait too long to make a call once you have made the decision to do so. The longer you wait, the less likely an investigation will be taken seriously, and the less likely it will turn up abuse.

If an investigation comes back supported for child abuse, DCFS may take action against the abusing parent. That action can range from a safety plan, to removing the child from that parent’s care. No one’s really sure what DCFS will do in any given situation. The police may also become involved again and bring charges.

  1. Get your child some counseling.

It’s often a very good idea to get your child psychological counseling.

This can do a few things: (1) it can provide your child with the help and support necessary to overcome the abuse suffered (this is, by far, the most important function of counseling); (2) it can uncover the full extent of the abuse; and (3) it can provide additional evidence regarding abuse, if any has occurred.

  1. Talk with an attorney to discuss your options.

You should sit down with a good Utah divorce and child custody attorney to discuss your options.

If the investigation comes back showing abuse, then you will have a few options to discuss and choose from. If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to see how to approach the court with your concerns. A good attorney will be able to do this. This isn’t something you want to try your hand at alone.

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