A Family Court judge’s neglect finding against a father who spanked his child has been overturned by a Brooklyn appellate court that said the discipline was not excessive.
“The father’s open-handed spanking of the child as a form of discipline after he heard the child curse at an adult was a reasonable use of force and, under the circumstances presented here, did not constitute excessive corporal punishment,” a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, Second Department, ruled in Matter of Laequise P., 2013-04513.
The Suffolk County Department of Social Services said Brian C. neglected his 8-year-old son by spanking the boy and hitting him on the buttocks, arms and legs with a belt.
During a fact-finding hearing, Brian said he spanked the boy but denied hitting him with a belt.
In March 2013, Suffolk County Family Court Judge Richard Hoffmann (See Profile) concluded Brian had neglected the boy. The father appealed.
In its unsigned decision, the Second Department said the neglect finding was “not supported by a preponderance of the credible evidence.” Parents have a right to the reasonable use of force as means of discipline or ensuring their welfare, which the spanking amounted to in this case, the court said.
Evidence regarding Brian’s use of a belt was “insufficient to prove that allegation by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Brian C. was represented by Daniel R. Howard of the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County.
Assistant Suffolk County Attorney Christina E. Farrell appeared for the county.
Glenn Gucciardo of Northport represented the child.