So, is spanking illegal in Washington? The short answer is "no." Parents are legally allowed to use physical discipline in Washington State. However, the issue is complex and there is a fine line between corporal punishment and abuse. The fine line gets even more blurry when a party to your custody case or CPS is making allegations against you. Even if you are not facing criminal allegations, you do not want to be defending child abuse allegations in your family law case because the commissioners and judges frown upon physical punishment-- even if it is simply spanking. Often, family law courts will include in the parenting plan a provision restraining either parent from physically punishing the child.
Here is the relevant Washington Criminal Code statute:
Use of force on children — Policy — Actions presumed unreasonable.
The following actions are presumed unreasonable when used to correct or restrain a child: (1) Throwing, kicking, burning, or cutting a child; (2) striking a child with a closed fist; (3) shaking a child under age three; (4) interfering with a child's breathing; (5) threatening a child with a deadly weapon; or (6) doing any other act that is likely to cause and which does cause bodily harm greater than transient pain or minor temporary marks. The age, size, and condition of the child and the location of the injury shall be considered when determining whether the bodily harm is reasonable or moderate. This list is illustrative of unreasonable actions and is not intended to be exclusive.