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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 70535
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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I am married to my wife who has two children (over the age

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I am married to my wife who has two children (over the age of 8 but below the age of 14) from a previous relationship. Whilest I have taken these childen on as 'my own' and treat them as such - I have not adopted the children nor tsigned documentation to take on parental responsibility. The children do live full time in the family home with us and have taken on my surname through deed poll. My wife has stated that I have permission to use reasonable chastisement if i need to give any of the children a smack on the bum (leaving no bruises or marks).

Recently, one of our children has become troubled and we have had to involve social servies to assist with her needs and development as we are beginning to reach the end of our tether with her behvior (such as ADHD/ODD and sexual touching against her sibilings). Social serives have stated clearly that if I smack this child (or any other child in our household) under 'reasonable chastisement' - even when the is not responding to other forms of control - then I open myself up to a referal to and investigation from the police for an assualt conviction as I do not have 'parental authority'. This is in spite of the face that the childrens natural birth mother has specified (in writing) that I have permission to use reasonable chastisement against the children in our household.

Please can you clarify the position under UK law in this case. Do I have the right to use reasonable chastisement as a defence for any previous or future occurance of smacking under 'reasonable chastisement'. I understand that 'reasonable chastisement' is not a valid excuse for beating a child back and blue - here we are taking about a single smack on the bum or thighs which leaves no bruising or marking.

Thank you for your question and welcome to Just Answer. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

Reasonable chastisement remains available to adults acting in loco parentis under 58 children's act 2004. However, it is only available to the charge of common assault rather any of the more serious assaults although you are not describing anything that would cause more serious injuries.

As a general rule the police are not keen to prosecute parents who lay hands upon their children to a proportionate degree.

Social workers are simply wrong if they are seeking to suggest that you cannot use reasonable chastisement just because you are not a biological parent.

This case

Is quite helpful.

Can I help further?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your prompt, concise and good reply, especially as you cite case law. This does go some way to alleviating my fears to the current problem at hand.


There are two other scenarios that concern me.


I will state form the outset that the ADHD/ODD child is diagnosed and medicated for the condition.


Scene 1: One evening we as a family were driving in the car and in the back the older sibling complained that the ADHD/ODD child was behaving inappropriately. The older sibling complained that the the ADHD/ODD child was punching and touching the older siblings breasts and groin area. When told firmly to stop this the ADHD/ODD child stated that she "won't and you cant make me." This caused a reaction where i pulled the car to the side of the road, opened the rear door and raised my hand as if to slap the ADHD/ODD child. There was no contact, and I just raised my hand. Thats all. According to social services this was a threat of assault and opens me to prosecution.


The other time was that the ADHD/ODD child was being disobedient and I shouted at her. In response, she assaulted me, about 5 or 6 times with closed fists (which left bruising on me).In hindsight, I believe I should have just 'bear hugged' her and think this may be the correct approach to take in future.


As response to that situation, after maybe the 6th punch, I put my arms up (open handed) to the height the fists were being thrown from and blocked further punches. During the first defensive blocks, the momentum of her swing caused my open hand to catch the childs cheek. Again, nothing that left a bruise nor even a red mark.


At the time (maybe 2 years ago) the child said nothing further but has recently stated that if I "do not do as im told" she will "tell" social services that I have hit her in the face.


I am a bit lost. Am I in trouble here for either of these scenarios? I love my wife but I have to be able to trust the people I choose to live with. I work at a high level of security clearance so any accusation can severely determent my 20+ year career.


Thank you or your time and answers.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

hi did you go offline?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Other.
I, sorry for the delay overnight

Have either of these been reported to the police?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

No neither.

To be wholly honest, that is just as well. Neither of those incidents amount to reasonable chastisement. They are just assaults by either battery or apprehension out of frustration.

The second incident doesn't really amount to self defence either as this was a blow out of frustration rather than an attempt to prevent further assault. Also its always near impossible for a man to run self defence against a child.

The risks isn't really from the police though. The risk is from social services. If you carry on they will start care proceedings.

I know that many parents do use corporal punishment but your problem is that you are under the gaze of social services who don't alway deal in reality. The way to live a normal life is to avoid coming to the attention of social services unfortunately.
Jo C. and 3 other UK Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your replies to the hypothetical scenarios I put across. I'm going to be a stepdad to a child with emotional problems and disabilities so really needed to understand where the boundaries lie in these instances.

Many thanks
Yes, I do understand.

Unfortunately families under the gaze of social services cannot apply common sense and good judgment as the rest of us do.