Child abandonment occurs when you desert your child without any regard for your child’s health, safety or welfare. It must be determined that you intended to wholly abandoning the child. This can be proved by your failure to provide for the child’s necessities. Child abandonment is usually occurs when a parent or guardian leaves your child at a stranger’s doorstep when no one is home. However, child abandonment can also be extreme emotional abandonment, such as a work-a-holic parent who does not attend to the child’s needs. The result of abandonment is that the abandoned children (also called “foundlings”) do not get their needs met. The abandoned child often grows up with low self-esteem or suffers from emotional dependency.
You can be criminally charged for abandoning your child. You may face felony or misdemeanor penalties and other consequences. Punishment could include a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000) and/or imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.
Factors Establishing Child Abandonment
The term “child abandonment” is broadly categorized and used to describe a variety of behaviors. Specific examples of abandonment vary, but common actions that may lead to charges include:
- Leaving a child with another person without provision or communication with the child for a period of three months;
- Making only minimal efforts to support and communicate with a child;
- Failing for a period of at least six months to maintain regular visitation with a child;
- Failing to participate in a suitable plan or program designed to reunite the parent or guardian with a child;
- Leaving an infant on a doorstep, in trash cans and dumpsters, and on the side of the road;
- Being absent from the home for a period of time that created a substantial risk of serious harm to a child;
- Failing to respond to notice of child protective proceedings; or,
- Not be willing to provide care, support, or supervision for the child.
Termination of Parental Rights
Your parental and custodial rights as a parent can be terminated if it is determined that you did abandon your child. Child abandonment may be able to established if you have:
- Provided no financial support;
- Had little or no contact with your child for over a year; and,
- Had intent to abandon your child.
Proving Intent to Abandon
A family law judge will consider the following as evidence of intent to abandon the child:
- Leaving the child and failing to provide identification for the child or to identify you as the parent;
- Failing to provide support for the child for an extended period of time;
- Not communicating with the child for an extended period of time.
You will no longer have parental rights once it has been determined that you did abandon your child and your rights have been terminated. The termination of your parental and custodial rights is a final decision by the court. In other words, you will no longer be able to file for custody, support, or visitation.
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