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Abuse is an action that intentionally causes harm or injures another person. This can refer to physical abuse, psychological abuse, mental abuse, or child abuse (see below). 

Abuse is also to misuse something - e.g., abuse of process. Substance abuse is excessively using or misusing substances.

In bankruptcy: filing under Chapter 7 by a debtor whose monthly, disposable income exceeds $10,950 or 25% of their non-priority unsecured debt (if at least $6,575) for a five-year period is presumptively abusive, requiring dismissal or conversion to Chapter 13.

Physical abuse: 

Physical abuse refers to a violent behavior by one person towards another that results in substantial bodily injury. In New York State, physical abuse may include but is not limited to:  ”slapping, hitting, kicking, biting, choking, smothering, shoving, dragging, throwing, punching, shaking, burning, cutting or the use of corporal punishment. Physical abuse shall not include reasonable emergency interventions necessary to protect the safety of any person” (Social Services Law S488(1)(a). 

Emotional abuse: 

Emotional abuse refers to the intentional infliction of distress, anguish or intimidation through non-physical acts. Mental and emotional abuse can also include coercion, harassment or isolation of an individual. 

Child abuse: 

Child abuse is defined by State and Federal Law. Under the Child Abuse prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), child abuse refers to “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm”.

Under the West Virginia code S49-1-3(1)(A) 2009, an abused child is one whose health or welfare is harmed or threatened by a person who knowingly or intentionally inflicts, attempts to inflict, or knowingly allows another person to inflict, physical injury or mental or emotional injury upon a child. 

In Re Timber M: When courts are dealing with cases that involve the abuse and neglect of children, and when it appears that the health and welfare of a child is or may be at risk, the courts will take all necessary actions that it deems appropriate and necessary to protect that child. 

See also: Mens Rea, Abuse excuse, Abuse of discretion, Abuse of process, Abusive discharge, Federal Judiciary's Bankruptcy Basics Glossary: means test, 11 U.S. Code § 707 - Dismissal of a case or conversion to a case under chapter 11 or 13 (b).

[Last updated in December of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]