Hatmaker may be a funny-sounding last name, but that is the only thing funny about Jordan Hatmaker. The 35-year-old Virginia Beach skydiving native survived a terrifying freefall of 13,500 feet when her parachute tangled. We emphasize her age only because she was not a child. Had she been a minor, such a stunt would qualify as an “unsafe environment.” But what else can earn a Virginia parent a charge of child abuse or neglect?

Skydiving, Yes

Skydive Orange (in — where else — Orange, Virginia) tells us that “anyone planning to skydive must bring a government-issued identification and must be 18 years of age. No exceptions.”

So let’s put skydiving under “unsafe environments.” Other unsafe activities and environments for a child can be understood by a careful reading of Virginia’s Code under § 63.2-100:

An abused or neglected child is any child under 18 years of age whose parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the child’s care:

  1. Causes or threatens to cause a non-accidental physical or mental injury
  2. Causes or threatens to cause a non-accidental physical or mental injury during the manufacture or sale of certain drugs
  3. Neglects or refuses to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, emotional nurturing, or health care
  4. Abandons the child
  5. Fails to provide adequate supervision in relation to the child’s age and level of development
  6. Commits or allows to be committed any illegal sexual act upon a child including incest, rape, fondling, indecent exposure, prostitution, or allows a child to be used in any sexually explicit visual material
  7. Knowingly leaves a child alone in the same dwelling with a person who is not related to the child by blood or marriage and who is required to register as a violent sexual offender

An abused or neglected child is also defined under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C § 7102 et seq.) as a child who has been identified as a victim of sex trafficking in the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

Say What?

To decode the child abuse law, think about the circumstances (the home life) that could run you or your ex-spouse afoul of either state or federal law. We offer seven Bizarro-World real estate listings corresponding to the definition:

  1. Our unsafe home features a kitchen with easy access to countertop knives, a gas stove with no child-proof knob protectors, drawers lacking child locks, electrical outlets with no covers, and a refrigerator any child can easily crawl into; the unlocked pantry features tempting treats on high shelves to encourage risky climbing
  2. This hideous corner lot property features a meth lab in the home office, grow lights for the pot plants proliferating in the basement, easy access to the street corner for selling fentanyl, and cartons of hijacked cigarettes without tax stamps in the family room
  3. Our terrifying duplex has unreliable heating in winter, a paltry pantry, a bathroom bereft of bandages, and empty clothes closets
  4. This horrendous hovel allows parents to disappear for days at a time, leaving children to come and go through unlocked doors
  5. While absent, this inhospitable habitat lets the parent randomly place the oldest minor “in charge” of the other children with specific instructions to keep the television on as a substitute for parenting
  6. This hellhole home offers a nightmarish master bedroom in which despicable acts may be inflicted on defenseless children, in violation of Virginia’s laws and federal law
  7. The spare bedroom of this vile villa offers registered violent sex offenders a place to rest without fear of being reported by parents of children in the house

No Excuse for Irresponsible Parenting

A good rule of thumb when considering a leap across the Snake River Canyon or neglecting your kids is to use this highly complex process:

  1. If you have any doubts about doing the thing you are about to do, for whatever reason, don’t do it!

Virginia’s courts do not accept excuses from negligent or abusive parents. The judge and prosecutor will not listen to empty words like, “I didn’t think about what could happen,” or “I was only gone for a little while.”

If you are about to engage in a behavior, act, choice, or event that puts even a scintilla of doubt in your mind, do not do it. And who should always be paramount in your mind? Your children, of course.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse in Virginia

If you suspect your ex-spouse is creating an unsafe environment for your child, report it. Within the state, call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at (804) 786-8536. If you are deployed or otherwise out of state, you can call (800) 552-7096.

You can also contact your family law attorney to report your concerns. Separation and divorce are civil law matters, but abuse and neglect are criminal offenses. In certain circumstances, attorneys are mandated reporters under Virginia Code § 63.2-1509.

You are your children’s primary protector. So besides not taking them skydiving, make sure they are safe and healthy in your ex’s home.

The Firm For Men works with Virginia’s men to protect rights, safeguard financial futures, and maintain healthy relationships. Contact us today or telephone our Virginia Beach office at (757) 383-9184 to connect with an experienced family law attorney.