The Consequences of Child Abandonment

online predatorsParents are required by law to see to it that they provide for the needs of their children. Providing utmost care and support in every aspect of the lives of the children, including making provisions for their basic needs, is what is expected of every parent.

“Cases where the state has to take children away from their biological parents are due to in large part to the latter’s inability to meet their responsibility of care,” says attorney Shawna Woods of Atlanta Divorce Law Group. Parents who neglect or abuse these rights may have no idea of the severe implications surrounding child abandonment and how it can permanently result in the loss of their rights.

Abandonment can happen by either one or both parents. In cases where both parents abandon the child, the child is then put up for adoption to a more deserving guardian by the court. If you are unsure of how to file a case of abandonment by your spouse, seek the counsel of a dedicated adoption attorney.

What is Child Abandonment?

Child abandonment occurs when a parent leaves a child without adequate care, supervision, support, or parental contact for an extended length of time. This unfortunate act from their parent or guardian can cause them to experience different psychological issues like:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling of sadness
  • Insecurity
  • Helplessness
  • Emotional dependency
  • Desperation, etc.

In the United States, it is considered a criminal violation to abandon a child. For one to be accused of child abandonment, they may face punishments like felony or misdemeanor charges.

Court Clarifications on Child Abandonment

Unless the circumstances are restricted, the court may consider abandonment a yardstick for custody and visitation. Here are some abandonment cases that might attract such charges:

  • Leaving the child(ren) in the care of another for three months without child support or proper communication
  • Your inability to maintain regular visits with the child(ren) for at least six months
  • Unwillingness to offer the child in question care, assistance, or monitoring
  • Failure to reply to a child protection order notice; or
  • Being away from home for an extended time exposing a child to significant danger of serious harm.

Abandonment: Demonstrating or Defending

The weight of evidence is on the party seeking termination to show that abandonment has occurred. This requirement to provide proof usually occurs when another person desires to assume the paternal responsibility that the parent has supposedly relinquished as a result of their abandonment.

Like all other aspects of abandonment, specific defenses will differ by state. In a state where the period of abandonment is measured from the time the father learns of the child, for example, the father can defend his parental rights by demonstrating that he was unaware of the child. Parents who want to maintain their parental rights may also give evidence of the child’s or parent’s financial support and contact, and attempt to build a relationship with the child.

The court may consider other factors that the statute does not address. A dedicated adoption attorney can assist in either crafting an effective defense or proving abandonment so that another parent can adopt the child.

Termination of Parental Rights

Several jurisdictions consider child abandonment to be a kind of negligence on the part of their parents or ward. This is especially true if the child is in an unsafe condition. When this occurs, the state will be able to terminate parental rights involuntarily.

For this to take effect, the parent’s inappropriate behavior, which makes them unsuitable guardians, must be demonstrated to the court. There must be substantial proof of unacceptable behavior for this to be approved. This signifies the parent’s legal relationship with the child is over. The termination of one parent’s rights does not imply that the court will also terminate the other parent’s rights. In most cases, it is the negligent parent that gets terminated. If both parents lose their parental rights, the child(ren) may be placed permanently with a family.

Custody Claims

Custody claims provided by state legislation or a court judgment may determine whether one parent receives complete custody. What the parent wishes to accomplish is usually included in the divorce petition.

If one spouse abandons the marriage, the other may submit a claim for full custody and all associated rights. When the judge considers the desertion seriously, this simplifies the situation.

The Difference Between Abandonment and Full Custody

Having full custody of a child by one party signifies that they have sole legal custody and physical custody, with any other rights regarding raising the child.

The decision concerning the child’s access to the other party will be based solely on the parent with full custody of the child. On the other hand, the noncustodial parent may enjoy visiting rights with the child.

Child abandonment has very different effects, as a termination formally eliminates the parent’s capacity to see the child. The parent will lose custody of their child and may face criminal charges for abandoning their child.

Reconsideration and Reinstatement

When parental rights are terminated, the courts declare it final. However, in the right circumstances, a parent can file an appeal. Reconsideration will be based on state rules, and these actions may be subject to time constraints.

It’s doubtful that the original parents will be reinstated, although it does happen on occasion. You will need the assistance and guidance of a family law attorney if you wish to pursue an appeal.


Child abandonment is a serious crime in many states and must be dealt with according to state laws. Most times, a parent who is guilty of abandoning their children has a hard time accepting their actions, and as for the child, they often have emotional and physical trauma from this time in their lives.

The effect of child abandonment can snatch away the parental rights of parents. The battle for child custody may also be awarded to the one who can prove to the court how unfit the other partner is. Seeking out the counsel of an attorney will help guide you through the process.

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