Child Abandonment

In law, the term “abandonment” may be used in a variety of legal issues, from contract law to real estate law, referring to the giving up or renunciation of an interest, privilege, possession, or right, with the intent of never reclaiming it. As the term applies to matters of Family Law, an individual may abandon a marriage, spouse, child, or property. While abandonment of a marriage or marital property is a civil matter to be dealt with in family court, abandonment of a child may also be a criminal offense for which the individual may face criminal charges. To explore this concept, consider the following child abandonment definition.

Definition of Abandonment

Noun

  1. The giving up or withdrawal of support from something or someone
  2. The act of leaving or deserting a person or property

Origin

1325-1375        Middle French abandoner

Types of Child Abandonment

Child abandonment occurs when a child’s parent or guardian willfully withholds emotional, physical, and financial support, with no regard for the child’s safety and welfare. This may include physical abandonment, such as leaving a child somewhere with no intent to return for him, or it may include failure to provide physical supervision, emotional support, and other necessities of life for a child living in the home. So-called “latchkey kids” may, in extreme cases, be considered abandoned by their working or otherwise absent parents.

Under the law, many parental behaviors lead to charges of child abandonment, including:

  • Leaving an infant on a doorstep, in a trash can, or on the side of the road
  • Being absent from the home for a period of time long enough to create substantial risk of harm to a child left in the home
  • Leaving a child with another person without providing for the child’s support, and with no meaningful communication with the child or caregiver for a period specified by statute, usually three months
  • Failing to maintain regular visitation with a child for a period of at least six months
  • Making only token efforts to support and communicate with a child
  • Refusing, or being unwilling, to provide supervision, care, and support for a child
  • Failing to participate in a parenting plan or program designed to reunite the parent with the child
  • Failing to respond to official notice of child protective or child custody proceedings

Child Abandonment Laws

Laws regarding child safety and welfare, abandonment, and abuse vary from state to state, though in most states child abuse and child abandonment laws go hand-in-hand. In many states, child abandonment is considered a felony, even if the child has not been physically harmed by the abandonment. Other states classify child abandonment as a misdemeanor, unless specifics of the crime suggest it should be raised to the level of a felony.

Criminal child abandonment is often defined as physically leaving a child somewhere, though it may also include failing to provide for the child’s basic needs, such as shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. As with child abuse, child physical abandonment is subject to mandatory reporting by professionals defined by state law. Such mandated reporters include medical personnel, counselors or psychiatric care providers, teachers, and other professionals in close contact with children

Emotional Abandonment

Although the child abandonment laws describe certain acts that constitutional non-physical abandonment of children, the truth is, emotional abandonment is subjective. Any act or failure to act that leaves a child feeling unwanted, discarded, or insecure may be considered emotional abandonment under the laws of child safety and welfare.

Experts in child psychology have found that, in a child’s eyes, abandonment is more about the parent’s absence and failure to communicate or take an active role in his life, than any financial considerations. Many children feel it is their fault, and experience feelings of low self worth and shame. Because emotional abandonment by a parent has the potential to cause a lifetime of issues for the child, it is taken very seriously by the courts.

Termination of Parental Rights

Parents have a constitutionally protected right to raise, protect, and educate their children. Such rights generally include physical custody of the child, the right to prevent adoption of a child, the right to educate and discipline the child, and the right to control and manage the minor child’s income and property. When parents fail to provide for the child’s welfare and safety, however, their rights to parent the child may be terminated by the court.

While laws vary from state to state, each recognizes specific circumstances that create an unsafe environment for a child. The most common reasons for termination of parental rights include:

  • Abandonment of the child
  • Severe or persistent abuse or neglect
  • Abuse or neglect of other children in the home
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Long term mental illness of a parent
  • Long term drug or alcohol abuse by a parent
  • Failure to maintain contact with, or support of, a child
  • Having rights to another child terminated involuntarily

One parent’s rights may be terminated without affecting the rights of the other parent. In the event parental rights are taken from both parents, legal custody of the child lies with the State, which then bears the responsibility for finding a suitable placement of the child.

Requirements for Termination of Parental Rights

The parent-child relationship is seen, in the eyes of the law, to be a fundamental right afforded to all parents. Because of this, the process of terminating parental rights is protracted and difficult, and the court will only grant a termination in rare cases. The burden of proof for involuntary termination of parental rights is very high, requiring clear and convincing evidence that at least one of the following applies:

  • Abandonment. A parent intentionally forsakes his duties to the child, failing to accept responsibility for the child’s financial, emotional, and physical support.
  • Failure to provide parental support. A parent repeatedly or continually neglects basic parental duties such as the provision of food, shelter, clothing, and education, or caring for the child’s physical and emotional needs.
  • Failure to provide financial support. A parent that has been ordered to pay financial support for a child continually fails to do so, despite being financially able to do so.
  • Foster care placement. A parent fails to correct conditions that resulted in a child being placed in foster care.

Child Abandonment Statistics

Each year in the United States, more than 3 million reports of child abandonment, child neglect, and child abuse are reported, these statistics touching the lives of more than 6 million children. This makes the United States one of the worst among industrialized nations for child abandonment and abuse.

Studies have shown that adults who report having 6 or more harmful or detrimental experiences in their childhood have a life expectancy shortened by 20 years. Child abuse, neglect, and abandonment are tied to increased incidence of such life-altering diseases as ischemic heart disease, liver disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”).

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Necessities of Life – The bare essentials needed for survival, or to maintain a minimum standard of living.
  • Parenting Plan – A detailed proposal for custody and care of a child, including scheduled time the child will spend with each parent.
  • Child Custody Proceedings – Legal proceedings for the purpose of determining custody of a child, as well as the rights and responsibilities of the parents to the child.
  • Mandated Reporter – An individual required by law to report suspected child abuse or abandonment; usually professionals that have regular contact with children.

Welcome all discussions

21 Comments on "Child Abandonment"

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Karen
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Would it be considered abandonment if i was to leave my 4 year old with her fther for a weekend while i go to canada to visit my fiance with my youngest daughter?

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Karen
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Would it be possible for him to accuse me of abandoning her?

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Tamara
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If there is a visitation schedule ruled by judge agreed to specific dates then no. If your ex is already expressing child abandonment threats that couldnt bode well for your 4yr old to be in his care. If he is resentful and angry about visitation you need to request monitored supervised visitation and more importantly express a deep and evident cause for concern regarding the saftey and well being of your 4yr old. The cost of resentment or retalliation for your vacation to see your new fiance might end up costing you your child in cases like this. So seek… Read more »
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Arlenen Gutierrez
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Is it consider abandoning your children if you leave your 2 children from previous relationship your mother to bring your girlfriend and your baby. And have no communication what so ever

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Blaze Dugan
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Would it be abandonment if my daughters mom leaves our child with me because she is constantly without a home. She has done this more than once. Sometimes it’s been for months

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Tamara
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Yes. Not to mention how hurtful confusing and terrifying it must be to that chikd. Seek immediate legal counsel establish dates of her interaction custody and absence the child back and forth is at risk. Have you verified by inspecting mothers shelter provisions for your child prior to her release from your custody to hers? This is imperative and shows true concern and regard fir chikd and well being. This child is not a toaster oven or a cd or even a pet you both care for. This child any and evety child deserves stability and not to be torn… Read more »
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Sarah
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My husband and I are separated and he is moved out. I don’t know where he is staying and he hasn’t contacted me about our 14 month old son for 3and a half weeks, is this considered abandonment?

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Tamara
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Not yet. Three months is abandonment however..leaving wife and child without resources if he was the sole support for food and shelter is abandonment child neglect child abuse and is punishable by law.

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Michelle
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I have raised a baby from 3 days old for 15 out of 16 months without much contact from birth mother is my case a possible abandonment case eventually?

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Tamara
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A long time ago and still yes abandonment if the mother neither provides visits or checks on child also no interaction or visitation is the mother collecting benefits and holding onto ties with child so as to retain benefits depriving chikd of services? Call social services chikdrens services establish guardianship and get benefits for child and establish the shit or get off the pot scenario now. Either yiu want to be the mommy or you do not this child will call someone stable mommy and this may hurt biological mothers pocketbook or her feelings doubtful there are any but for… Read more »
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Clyde
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Can my mom say I abandon my thirteen year old cause she called her to come get her after making false Cps report and I let her stay a week and was in contact with child and made sure had money

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Tamara
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No and tell the dept of childrens services you gave temporary permission to allow child to go cool down but you shouldnt give your 13yr old that kind of power or alow your mother to be the savior. If your 13yr old is defiant report to counselor go to fsmiky guidance also call your local sherrif express concerns ask questions and by the way you will always have authority to call police to help assist you in bringing your chikd back home should your mother overstep boundries or your child, the sooner the better get yiur child back home dobt… Read more »
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Clyde
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Thk u so much yes I got her back I called my cousin who is a police officer in another town and he also gave me a lot of good advice she’s still being a little smart elic on something’s but has improved alot

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Gene
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Would it be abandonment.my grand baby been with me for 6 mouth mom is on meth. Bad she won’t come and see her or call she send text given me hell or my son he on meth to need ask about grand baby.

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Karen
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My grandson is living in a very nasty home is being hit by his stepmother with a spoon and by his stepmothers father using his cane to hit him in the head. He is made to stay in his room more than not.His bio moms boyfriend was convicted of child abuse last year.He lives with his dad and stepmother bio mom hasn’t had any contact with him since boyfriend found guilty.When he is allowed to visit he doesn’t want to go back because he says they hit him and that the house is filthy with trash and dog feces and… Read more »
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Tamara
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Call childrens services they will investigate also request guardianship till they proove its saf3.

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Chris
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Mother of my daughter 7. Left state fl. Never married/no custody agreement gone Over yr.tring to take her to ga.next Mth..what do I do

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Alan
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So if my wife found a man went on a date with him, and stayed the night at his house and every night for the past 12 days increasing the time she spends with him, and less time with her husband and child, and gone 2 to three days at a time with out talking to her child.. We are separating and I am wanting a dissolution, my child wants to move with me and she wants the house, we will be moving an hour away to live with my family.

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Amanda
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Would it be abandonment if my husband has left the state for 5 months and has not tried to contact me at all about our 2 children

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Clyde
Guest

Yes sounds to me very much so with all I read!!

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Cal
Guest

Is there Any Real Attorneys out there who care about other people’s children? Mine are practically grown, however;The Mother flys off to Mexico (5x) now without my knowledge & totally disregards Court Orders @ her discretion. Marital home remains in my name after awarded to her 2011…
It’s 2017 now…..Utilities constantaly shut off, book rental & lunches neglected to protray dad as “deadbeat dad”. Special place in hell for this Mother I hope!! Kids are 18/13 now…
The father has Always been current on CS; clean record, & maintains 17+yr job
Non drinker non smoker

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