Protecting Your Child from an Abusive Stepparent

Wicked stepparents are common in literature. Cinderella was abused by her stepmother and stepsisters. Snow White was ordered to be killed by her jealous stepmom. And David was treated horribly by his evil stepfather in Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield.” Sadly, abusive stepparents also are found in real life.

Challenges of Co-Parenting

Not seeing eye-to-eye with your ex or their new partner can be unpleasant and emotional. Even in times of disagreement, it’s in everyone’s best interest, including the children, if all parties can treat each other with civility. When there are disputes, working through those out of the children’s presence can help prevent them from shouldering blame. You and your former partner divorced each other but not your children.

After a marriage ends, your ex and any new spouses can be partners in raising the children. Establishing shared goals and reevaluating as the children’s needs change can minimize disagreements. Successful co-parenting requires consistent house rules and open communication.

Despite your concerted efforts to work with your ex and their new partner, discord can still happen. The stakes rise dramatically if you suspect the stepparent is abusing your child.

Types of Abuse

Abuse does not necessarily leave a physical mark. The wounds can go beyond a physical manifestation.

There are four types of parental abuse, whether the abuse is at the hands of the biological parent or stepparent. Abuses can result in physical or emotional harm or both.

  • Neglect. Leaving the child alone for a long time or in a situation where they could be harmed is considered neglect.
  • Physical. Shaking, hitting, and other harmful physical contact is considered physical abuse, but also withholding food or medicine.
  • Emotional. This can include bullying, shouting, and ridiculing what they say.
  • Sexual. Grooming for future abuse, telling dirty jokes, and sharing sexual images are just a few examples.

Warning Signs of Abuse

Signs of abuse can be hard to detect, but those subtle signs include your child becoming withdrawn or overly compliant.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services lists signs of potential abuse, including the following:

  • They impose excessive restrictions on whom the child can contact.
  • They seem indifferent toward the child.
  • They blame the child for everything.
  • They give unreasonable explanations on how a child is injured.
  • They become jealous if the child receives attention from others.

If you believe a child is in imminent danger, call 9-1-1.

Legal Options

Accusing someone of child abuse is a serious matter. If you have suspicions that your child is being abused by a stepparent, contact an experienced attorney right away. At Jetton & Meredith, we understand the sensitivity and urgency of taking action to protect the most vulnerable. Let us know why you suspect abuse and what evidence you may have supporting your belief.

Note that North Carolina requires anyone age 18 or older who knows a child is a victim of abuse to notify the local law enforcement agency where the child lives.

Our attorneys have the years of experience and a thorough understanding of North Carolina’s laws to guide you through possible legal steps you can take, such as:

  • Opening a case with Child Protective Services or in juvenile court
  • Temporarily adjusting the child custody and visitation agreements
  • Filing for full custody and changes to child support agreements
  • Filing criminal charges against a Stepparent

Call Jetton & Meredith (704) 931-5535 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment.

Helpful Resources

Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

North Carolina Judicial Branch