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Whether child abuse is characterized as a social problem, a medical diagnosis, or a psychological issue, it has significant civil and criminal legal ramifications. Prosecutable as a crime, it can result in the incarceration of the abuser. Adjudicated in civil courts, it can ultimately result in an abuser's permanent termination of parental rights. When you treat an abused child/adolescent, you are likely to become a participant in the legal response to child abuse allegations. Your role in the care of the abused child/adolescent as it relates to the legal setting is often a source of misunderstanding. This section is designed to provide a brief overview of legal issues that commonly relate to child abuse and is not intended to constitute or replace legal counsel. Contact your attorney and your risk management professional regarding these and any other legal matters or concerns.

Key Concepts
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Protective Custody

Medical Records

  • Releasing information

Confidential and Privileged Communication


The Judicial System

  • Criminal court
  • Civil court

Testifying as a Fact Witness

  • Hearsay evidence
  • Statements for purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment
  • Excited utterance or spontaneous disclosure

Testifying as an Expert

  • Qualifications of an expert witness
  • Purpose and scope of expert testimony
  • Forms of expert testimony
  • Preparing to go to court

Testifying in Court

  • Billing for testimony

Additional Resources

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Legal Issues: Overview  Legal Issues: Consent by Mature or Emancipated Minors  Legal Issues: Protective Custody  Legal Issues: Medical Records  Legal Issues: Confidential and Privileged Communication  Legal Issues: Subpoenas  Legal Issues: Judicial System  Legal Issues: Testifying as a Fact Witness   Legal Issues: Testifying as an Expert  Legal Issues: Testifying in Court  Legal Issues: Additional Resources 

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