Corporal Punishment of Children and Family Violence

I’m charged with an act of family violence… against my kids!

Georgia law forbids acts of simple battery between past or present spouses, persons who are parents of the same child, parents and children, and other parental-child relationships. This is meant to protect citizens from physical abuse by family and household members. However, reasonable corporal punishment is legal in Georgia, and corporal punishment is a defense to a charge of simple battery family violence against a minor child. The statute that prohibits acts of simple battery between parents and their children, O.C.G.A. 16-5-23, goes on to say that “in no event shall this subsection be applicable to corporal punishment administered by a parent or guardian to a child…”

This means that parents can take measures to discipline, restrain, or detain their children, and may use reasonable, physical force to do so. What does “reasonable” mean within this context? While never strictly defined, we can look to case  law to help understand how to apply the law to the facts. Case law on corporal punishment of children more often tackles the definition in its application to school discipline. In a case from 1985, the Court of Appeals determined that the paddling of a student by a school principal which resulted in “severe bruises” did not rise to a level of punishment that was “excessive, unduly severe, and administered in bad faith.” A 2003 case, Buchheit v. Stinson, looked at the 1985 case involving a teacher, and applied similar reasoning to Buchheit’s corporal punishment of her child. In Buchheit, Mary Buchheit had allegedly slapped her child across the face.

The Court in Buchheit found that “there was no evidence that Buchheit’s action of slapping her child in response to the child’s disrespectful behavior fell outside the bounds of permissible ‘reasonable discipline.’ Although we recognizes that in ertain instances, paddling or spanking could rise to the level of family violence under the statute, the circumstances of this case did not constitute this prohibited conduct.”

In Georgia, parents are free to use reasonable force to discipline their children. If you are charged with family violence against your minor child for the way in which you chose to discipline the child, you may have a valid and protected defense. Call one of our experienced attorneys to set up a free consultation. 404-581-0999.