Child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or person in charge of a child either deserts a child without any regard for the child’s physical health, safety or welfare and with the intention of wholly abandoning the child, or in some instances, fails to provide necessary care for a child living under their roof.
While abandoning a child typically involves physical abandonment, it may also include extreme cases of emotional abandonment such as when a “work-a-holic” parent offers little or no physical contact or emotional support over long periods of time.
Unfortunately, abandoned children who do not get their needs met often grow up with low self-esteem, emotional dependency, helplessness, and other issues.
A person charged with deserting a child may face felony or misdemeanor penalties and other consequences.
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: 1) Leaving a child with another person without provision for the child’s support and without meaningful communication with the child for a period of three months; 2) Making only minimal efforts to support and communicate with a child; 3) Failing for a period of at least six months to maintain regular visitation with a child and/or 4) Being unwilling to provide care, support, or supervision for the child.
The laws vary from state to state. Many states include deserting a child within its child abuse laws and vice versa, while some states have laws specifically targeting the act of abandoning a child. Most states classify abandonment as a felony, which may include situations where a parent or guardian physically abandons a child in any place with the intent of relinquishing all rights and responsibilities to the child. Other states classify the desertion of a child as a misdemeanor (with lesser penalties), including situations that involve non-physical acts of abandonment.
In general, child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person has physical custody or control of a child and, when acting without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of the child: 1) Knowing leaves a child (typically under the age of 13) without supervision by a responsible person (typically over the age of 14) or 2) Fails to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.
Because abandoning a child is considered child abuse in some states, certain people may be required to report known or suspected cases of child abandonment to the proper authorities. Check your state’s child abuse laws to see if you qualify as a “mandatory reporter.”
Most jurisdictions have exceptions to child abandonment in the form of safe haven laws. Safe Haven Laws allow mothers to safely abandon their newborn infants in safe locations – such as churches, hospitals, and fire stations – without fear of being charged with the crime of child abandonment.
Depending on the state, a person charged with criminal child abandonment faces a wide range of penalties and sentencing options, depending on whether the state makes it a felony or misdemeanor. A court will take the factors listed above into consideration – but the penalties may include fines, termination of parental rights, supervised access to the child, and jail time.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So, it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.