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Child Abuse / Neglect

We have a proven track record of success in handling over 15,000 criminal cases and consistently awarded as one of Ohio’s top criminal defense firms. We are highly experienced child abuse / neglect lawyers. Experience matters when dealing with these cases, which prosecutors and judges handle differently on a case by case basis. We know what to expect and what to do to get the best result possible.

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Child Abuse/Neglect Defense Lawyer in Columbus, OH

In this day and age, few issues cause the emotional charge in people than allegations of child abuse. In some cases, aggressive prosecution and a lack of exonerating evidence could lead to a lengthy jail sentence. Along with this “pro-prosecution” mentality, you might also face false or exaggerated charges, mistaking light spanking for abuse, and unnecessary involvement by Child Protective Services.

With this in mind, a pending child abuse charge needs to be met and dealt with effectively and promptly. Considering the negative impact a conviction could have on your social, professional, and financial life, fighting the charges is of paramount importance.

If you have been charged with child abuse, neglect, or endangerment in Columbus, Ohio, consider acting quickly to hire a law firm that can protect your rights with years of proven abilities in criminal defense. Joslyn Law Firm has represented more than 20,000 criminal cases in Ohio. Our firm comprises the skills and experience from attorneys who have worked both sides of criminal cases like yours.

  • Associate Attorney Ryan Shafer brings his five years’ experience of working in the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office, and he knows the strategies the prosecution will put into play to try to get you behind bars.
  • Associate Attorney Mark Wieczorek brings a wealth of knowledge from his time as a Hamilton County, Ohio, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.

Brian Joslyn has received ample recognition for his skills and abilities in the courtroom. SuperLawyers honored Brian with the coveted “Rising Star” designation. National Trial Lawyers named him a “Top 100 Trial Lawyer.” He also received an award reserved for attorneys who “demonstrate the highest level of professional excellence”—the Martindale-Hubbell Preeminent Attorney Award. Columbus CEO Magazine named Brian a “Top Lawyer.”

Columbus Child Abuse Attorney

If you are under investigation for child abuse allegations in central Ohio, now is the time you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney to make certain that you are moving forward in this complex and difficult process in the correct manner. A good lawyer may be the difference when it comes to avoiding conviction and making certain that the future of your child continues to look bright.

With So Much at Stake, Experience Matters

You must appreciate the gravity of a child abuse or neglect charge, as the penalties can be quite severe, especially in the case of a felony conviction. Look for a legal professional who has handled more than their share of criminal cases and knows how to defend their clients from these charges. Experience matters greatly.

Brian Joslyn is deeply familiar with the local courts, judges, court personnel, bailiffs, probation, and parole officers. He and the entire team represent individuals facing domestic violence charges throughout central Ohio and in the surrounding counties of Franklin, Delaware, Madison, Licking, Fairfield, and Pickaway.

Brian has captured the attention of local and national media, regularly serving as a key resource for criminal law stories for NBC4, ABC6, 10WBNS, FOX23, The Columbus Dispatch, and The Plain Dealer.

Call Us Today for a Free Evaluation

Our legal team and staff are committed to protecting your individual rights on the road ahead. We dedicate ourselves to providing excellent client service throughout every aspect of your case. Call us today for a free evaluation: (614) 444-1900.

Child Abuse and Neglect in Columbus Information Center


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Overview of Child Abuse and Neglect in Columbus

According to Ohio laws, child abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. The state also considers neglect and abandonment of a child to be a criminal act. In Ohio, a “child” is someone younger than 18 years of age or an individual who is younger than 21 years of age and has a mental or physical disability. Acts of child abuse constitute domestic violence.

How Ohio Law Defines an Abused Child

Ohio Revised Code § 2151.031 defines an “abused child” as any child who:

  • Is the victim of sexual activity
  • Is endangered
  • Exhibits evidence of any physical or mental injury or death, inflicted other than by accidental means
  • Suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child’s health or welfare

In this definition, “endangered” can refer to Ohio Revised Code § 2919.22, which states that no person, who is the parent, guardian, custodian of a child under age 18, shall create a substantial risk to the health or safety of the child by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.

Additional Terms of Child Abuse in Columbus

Ohio Revised Code § 2919.22 goes on to say that no person shall do any of the following to a child:

  • Abuse the child
  • Torture or cruelly abuse the child
  • Administer corporal punishment or other physical disciplinary measure, or physically restrain the child in a cruel manner or for a prolonged period, which punishment, discipline, or restraint is excessive under the circumstances and creates substantial risk for the child
  • Entice, coerce, use, or allow a child to participate in material that is obscene or sexually oriented
  • Operate a motor vehicle under the influence with a minor in the car

How Ohio Law Defines a Neglected Child

Ohio Revised Code § 2151.03 states that a “neglected child” includes any child:

  • Who is abandoned by the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian
  • Who lacks adequate parental care because of the faults of the parents, guardian, or custodian
  • Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care or treatment

Violence against one’s child constitutes domestic violence, regardless of whether the child resides with the accused offender. It is not the location of where the abuse occurs, but rather, the relationship between the accused abuser and the alleged victim that defines an act as one of domestic violence.

Child Abuse vs. Discipline

Domestic violence laws protect children against domestic abuse. However, these laws are not intended to interfere with a parent’s right to discipline his or her child. The law in Ohio does not prohibit corporal punishment unless it poses a risk of death, serious injury, or substantial pain to the child.

Parents can engage in physical punishment, so long as such punishment is reasonable under the circumstances, and not so extreme as to cause death, serious injury, or substantial pain. In custody disputes, one parent may allege abuse claims against the other parent for enforcing corporal punishment. However, the prosecution must prove the punishment was unreasonable.

Children’s Services in Ohio May Get Involved in Child Abuse Cases

Often, another party will indirectly inject itself into the proceedings. Franklin County Children’s Services will often move to have custody of the children taken away from any parent who Children’s Services suspects is unfit. This may happen immediately pursuant to what is called an ex parte order.

Ex parte” means that only one side gets its argument heard before the court makes its decision. This is unfair and an affront to our system of adversarial jurisprudence (each party should have its day in court and be allowed to make the arguments it wants to make). However, the courts will tolerate ex parte decisions because it is temporary—until a more formal hearing with all the parties participating can be held.

The Role of Children’s Services in a Child Abuse Case

A husband punches his wife in front of the kids. He threatens the kids with physical discipline if they tell anybody about what he did. The wife calls the police. The husband is arrested and taken off to jail. The wife decides she does not want to prosecute.

Children’s Services is concerned the situation is going to escalate in the future and that it is dangerous for the children to be around a guy like the husband unless he gets treatment for his anger management and drinking problems.

Getting no help from the wife, Children’s Services files for emergency custody of the children, and they are put into foster care for a week or so, until Grandma agrees to take them in until the matter can be sorted out.

Within a few weeks, a hearing will be held at which the husband and wife can show that the children should not be taken away from them. If the court finds that these arguments are sound, then the judge may return the children. If not, the judge may order the children to be kept where they are, and the parents get visitation with them as specified times and manners.

You Could Enlist the Help of an Attorney from Our Firm

The attorney you use to fight this portion of the case will likely not be your criminal defense attorney. It is better to have a good domestic relations attorney on standby for this kind of matter.


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Penalties for Child Abuse and Neglect in Columbus

The penalties for child abuse range widely, but they tend to be quite severe with felony classification for basically all child abuse convictions. This means that, depending on the seriousness of the charge itself, you have the potential to receive a presumptive sentence of between six months (fifth-degree felony) to 10 years (first-degree felony). Fines for felonies will range from $2,500 (fifth-degree) to $20,000 (first-degree).


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Defenses Against Child Abuse and Neglect in Ohio

As your defense counsel, we can assert any of several defenses to protect you from a child abuse or neglect conviction.

False Claim

It is not uncommon for a well-intentioned person to misinterpret what happens between a parent and their child. Sometimes, a person jumps to conclusions about a child’s injuries. Other times, a troubled spousal relationship prompts false accusations in the interest of favorable divorce or custody outcomes.

Still, in other situations, a child might be angry at their parent, so they make up a tale of abuse or neglect to retaliate. Our lawyers will look for evidence of any such scenario, and if we find it, we will use it in your defense.

Lack of Evidence

Ohio prosecutors are held to a high standard of evidence when arguing cases of child abuse or neglect. Our lawyers will hold the prosecution to this standard—insisting on sufficient proof that the child suffered abuse that caused physical or emotional injury or death.

If the prosecution cannot provide evidence that meets this muster—marks on the victim’s body, medical evidence, or witness testimony—we can assert the insufficient evidence defense.

Parental Right to Discipline

As Court News Ohio reports, Ohio’s laws permit the use of corporal punishment for disciplining a child so long as the means of discipline do not threaten the child with death or serious harm. If you have been accused of child abuse merely for appropriately disciplining your child, we will assert this defense on your behalf.


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Additional Resources for Child Abuse and Neglect in Ohio

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Office of Families and Children, administers and oversees programs related to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Visit this site to learn about the department’s services for abused and neglected children.

Franklin County Children Services

This agency is centered on child and family welfare. Visit the site to learn about permanent, stable living options for abused, neglected, and abandoned children and programs that aim to strengthen the family unit. The site also offers a useful Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page that addresses issues like how to handle a misbehaving child, how to report abuse or neglect, and what types of foster care and adoption services CCS offers.

Franklin County Law Library

The Franklin County Law Library presents this helpful page dedicated to informing visitors about child welfare law in Ohio. Specifically, this page addresses the adjudicatory hearing, which is the fact-finding stage in Ohio juvenile cases. Take a look to learn all the corresponding rules and procedures established in Ohio law, including those that speak to hearing deadlines, right to counsel, procedures for hearings, witnesses, rules of evidence, and records.

Council on Child Abuse (COCA) of Southern Ohio, Inc.

This nonprofit organization is now affiliated with Talbert House. COCA has the important mission of delivering educational and public awareness programs geared toward putting an end to child abuse. The group provides a 24-hour Parent Hotline and offers prevention programs staffed by trained professionals and volunteers. Having identified a connection between bullying, child abuse, and the “cycle of violence,” the group also offers programs related to bully prevention and awareness.

Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC devotes this page to illuminating facts about child abuse and neglect. The site defines the various terms child welfare agencies and courts use when discussing this issue. It also speaks to the scope of the problem and the consequences of abuse and neglect. It outlines suggestions for preventing child abuse and neglect and provides links to informative data sources and publications on the topic.


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News About Child Abuse and Neglect in Ohio

May 27, 2021

Mother Takes the Stand in Child Abuse Trial

Lima, Ohio, mother, Cheyenne Hooper, took the stand at her trial where she has been charged with felonious assault and endangering a child, according to Lima News. The case centers on Hooper’s 7-month-old daughter, Lyla, who suffered head trauma, neck injuries, a brain shift, retinal hemorrhages, and severe bleeding of the brain. Hooper claims the injuries happened when her infant fell out of bed. Prosecutors allege that the injuries stemmed from the mother assaulting her child.

A child abuse pediatrician had testified that the infant’s injuries were not consistent with injuries from a fall, as Hooper suggested. However, defense counsel brought their own witness, Dr. Daniel Adler, a pediatric neurologist. Adler testified that he believed the baby had “held her breath and passed out.” He further persisted that the infant’s injuries could be accidental, as she suffers from infant torticollis—a condition that affects the neck muscles.   

May 19, 2021

Deborah Bellar Given $1 Million Bond in Athens County Child Abuse Case

NBC4 reports that a woman from Athens, Ohio, pleaded not guilty to second-degree felony charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and third-degree felony charges of endangering children. The woman, Deborah Bellar, was given a $1 million bond in Athens County Common Pleas Court.

Bellar’s husband, Robert, and two sons, Josiah and Jonathan, have also been charged. The case arose after a missing child posted on Facebook under an alias and accused the Bellar family of ongoing sexual assault between 2008 and 2016.

May 19, 20201

Former Ohio State, Michigan Athletes Partner With National Group to Help End Child Abuse

Athletes who claim to have been assaulted by Ohio State’s athletic doctor, Richard Strauss, are working to prevent other young people from enduring similar abuses, reports The Columbus Dispatch. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (MCMEC) has formed a partnership with former University of Michigan and Ohio State University athletes who say their team doctors sexually abused them.

The partnership aims to raise awareness about sexual abuse by athletic team doctors and educate young athletes about the legal process that will help them seek justice if they have been sexually abused in this manner.

May 6, 2021

Court Documents Cite ‘Ongoing Abuse,’ Threats of Death in Ma’Khia Bryant Custody Case

ABC6 reports that Franklin County Juvenile Court has released new domestic documents about Ma’Khia Bryant, the 16-year-old girl who was shot and killed in April 2021 by a Columbus police officer as she held a knife.

According to the newly released case file, the teen suffered from ongoing abuse and threats of death at the hands of her mother, Paula Bryant. The file also contained Franklin County Children’s Services’ motion for permanent custody to enable Ma’Khia’s adoption by another family.

May 6, 2021

Columbus Babysitter Charged with Abuse of Toddler After Parents Place Hidden Camera

A babysitter in Columbus, Ohio, faces misdemeanor charges of endangering a child and abuse after a toddler’s parents caught the babysitter slapping the child on camera, reports NBC4. Parents suspected a problem when their child would cover her face any time the parents tried to pick her up.

They installed a hidden camera, and two days later, it recorded an incident wherein the toddler awoke from her nap, tried to peek at what her sitter was looking at on her phone.

The sitter slapped the toddler in the face.  A few minutes later, the sitter slapped the 20-month-old again, repeatedly. The child’s parents are unhappy with the charges. They feel that the behavior had likely been ongoing, given the toddler’s conditioned response to cover her face.


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FAQs About Child Abuse and Neglect in Ohio

Q. What Constitutes Neglect of a Child in Ohio?

According to Ohio law, a parent, guardian, or custodian who fails to provide the necessary subsistence, education, or medical care, or who otherwise fails to care for the child’s health, morals, or well-being is guilty of child neglect.

Q. What Is Considered Child Abuse in Ohio?

Ohio courts see child abuse as an act of commission. This offense can manifest in three ways: physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. With physical abuse, the parent or caretaker is accused of purposefully injuring a child.

Sexual abuse could be rape but could also take place in cases of fondling or touching or involving the child in pornography. Emotional abuse consists of destructive maltreatment, including withholding love from a child, or insulting, criticizing, or rejecting them.

Q. What Is the Punishment for Child Abuse in Ohio?

Punishment for child abuse and neglect varies widely, depending on the circumstances of a case. A fifth-degree felony charge could mean a presumptive sentence of six months. A first-degree felony conviction could result in a 10-year sentence.

Furthermore, you could pay a fine of between $2,500 and $20,000 for a conviction of fifth-degree felony child abuse or first-degree felony child abuse, respectively.

Q. Is it Legal to Discipline a Child in Ohio?

Yes, Ohio law permits parents to discipline their children, provided the manner of discipline does not pose a risk of death, substantial pain, or serious injury. The punishment must be reasonable given the circumstances.

Q. What Are the Legal Defenses Against a Child Abuse and Neglect Charge in Ohio?

Depending on the circumstances of your case, any of several defenses can be raised to challenge a conviction for child abuse and neglect. They include false claim, lack of evidence, and the parental right to discipline.


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Columbus Child Abuse and Neglect Lawyer

An arrest for child abuse is something no parent or guardian wants to deal with. The inherent “pro-prosecution” mentality of the state always looks out for the welfare of its dependent citizens, for better or worse. A Joslyn Law Firm defense attorney can help you pursue favorable outcomes, including case dismissals and not guilty verdicts, which allow you to continue your life with a clear record.

Our law firm proudly represents individuals dealing with alleged criminal charges in central Ohio, including but not limited to Columbus, Sunbury, Dublin, Reynoldsburg, Worthington, Groveport, Plain City, Heath, Granville, Baltimore, Bremen, South Bloomfield, New Holland, and Commercial Point.

As an aggressive and trial-proven criminal defense attorney, Brian Joslyn is well-positioned to provide effective legal counsel throughout the entire process. If you would like the advice and representation of a qualified and dedicated attorney, call Joslyn Law Firm at (614) 444-1900 for a free consultation.


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  • Brian Joslyn was named Best Lawyer in 2019 by Birdeye.
  • Columbus CEO magazine has yearly selections for the best attorneys in Columbus Ohio. Brian Joslyn has been identified as one of the most highly skilled attorneys across central Ohio.
  • Brian Joslyn has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer LegionLawyer Legion
  • Preeminent Attorney Award. Peer rated for highest level of professional exellence.
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB), founded in 1912, is a private, nonprofit organization whose self-described mission is to focus on advancing marketplace trust.

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