Every state has limitations regarding a parent’s right, or lack of a right, to spank their children. Generally speaking, courts have decided that all parents have the right to raise their children in whichever way they see fit. This includes punishing their children in whichever manner they find most appropriate.

Spanking your child as a punishment is not illegal in Virginia. Spanking your child is permitted as long as the child is not injured in any capacity. In Virginia state law, reasonable spanking in moderation is not illegal, but the line becomes blurry when trying to differentiate between child abuse and corporal punishment such as spanking.

What Is Considered Spanking In Virginia?

Spanking is sometimes referred to as corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is a discipline method in which a supervising adult deliberately inflicts pain upon a child in response to a child’s unacceptable behavior and/or inappropriate language. The immediate aims of such punishment are usually to halt the offense, prevent its recurrence and set an example for others.

Spanking is a term that mostly refers to hitting or smacking your child with your hand, but can be a blanket term used for corporal punishment upon ones own child. Using a weapon or using extreme force is never permitted when punishing a child or correcting their behavior.

What Separates Spanking From Child Abuse?

It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between spanking and child abuse. The line between the two is often blurred. Parents should know that state prosecutors and judges decide on a case by case basis whether or not corporal punishment, such as spanking, has crossed the line and warrants a more severe punishment. Any kind of physical force or violence against your child may be considered assault, domestic violence, battery or child abuse if it includes any of the following:

  • The contact with the child (the discipline) does more than just cause discomfort or emotional stress, and causes an injury
  • The amount of force used to discipline the child was unreasonable, and any reasonable person would understand it could cause injury
  • The nature of the contact was not for discipline of correcting inappropriate behavior
  • The parent used a weapon

For example, let’s say a child was acting inappropriately and their parents felt they needed to be corrected. A commonly occurring example would be a child throwing a temper tantrum in response to not getting what they want, or deliberately doing something they’ve been repeatedly told not to do. A standard “spank” on the bottom or the back of the neck is typically what people think of when they think of parents spanking their children. Since a spank on the bottom or back of the neck will not injure the child or inflict any serious harm or extreme pain, this is behavior that’s permitted within the context of Virginia state law. This type of action is not illegal.

If a parent, however, hits their child with such force that they are injured, this is not permitted. Additionally, if a child is struck without reason, or with extreme force, this would constitute child abuse and not just casual spanking.

Is It Illegal To Spank Someone Else’s Child?

In Virginia, parents have the right to raise their children however they see fit. As mentioned before, this includes spanking and reasonable corporal punishment. However, someone who is not a child’s parent or caregiver is not permitted to spank them in any capacity. A parent is not permitted to spank anyone else’s child, either. This includes playmates, cousins, or stepchildren.

Anyone who punishes someone else’s child could be facing an assault charge, as it’s not permitted in any state to perform corporal punishment on anyone but your own child. This behavior is punished to the fullest extent, and could cause someone to be convicted of an assault, battery, or domestic violence charge.

Schedule A Free, No-Obligation Consultation With The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC

Virginia criminal defense attorney Scott C. Nolan, PLLC handles cases that include violent crimes such as assault, battery, domestic violence, and other serious felony charges. If you spank your child but are worried you may be facing a charge for something more severe, it’s crucial that you get the help of an attorney right away.

The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC understands what’s at stake when you’re facing harsh penalties for criminal charges: your family, your career, your freedom, and your future. To learn more about your rights and the law in Virginia, or if you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, and you need the right defense lawyer’s help – fast – call The Law Office of Scott C. Nolan, PLLC’s law offices or contact him online.