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Is spanking a child domestic violence in Georgia?

There is, and has been for several decades, an on-going debate with regard to the use of 'corporal punishment' on children. Corporal punishment is simply the use of force to inflict pain as a means of behavior modification. This most often takes the form of what is called, in English, spanking. While many countries ban the practice altogether, there are those in the U.S. that still take the view that 'sparing the rod spoils the child,' while others say that it is at best ineffective and, at worst, a form of abuse that causes physical and emotional distress for no good reason. Regardless of one's viewpoint, it may be important to know what Georgia law says on the issue.

In general, family violence is prohibited in Georgia. The state code section 19-13-1 identifies battery, assault or unlawful restraint against a spouse, domestic partner or child as family violence. This would, on its face, seem to preclude the hitting of one's child. However, the statute makes an exception for "the reasonable discipline" of a child by a parent by the use of confinement or corporal punishment.

Of course, the term "reasonable discipline" may well be open to interpretation. Is one swat on the behind 'reasonable?' Is 20? What about the use of various 'implements?' It may be informative that another section of the Georgia Code that deals with child abuse provides that physical discipline may be used on a child as long as no "physical injury" is done. As can be imagined, then one would need to get into the question of what "physical injury" is.

Further, it should be noted that in the family violence exception, only parents can administer such discipline to their children under the plain text of the law. Like many legal issues, simply reading the law brings up more questions than answers. Because criminal charges may result, and there can be ramifications in a civil family law context of allegations of domestic violence, people with questions about corporal punishment and the extent of the law may wish to consult with an experienced Georgia family law attorney.

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