Child Custody Issues: What is Abandonment of a Child?

Many parents are unaware of the vast consequences of child abandonment and how it could eventually lead to the permanent loss of parental rights. Child welfare laws dictate just what child abandonment is, many of which refer to it as a type of neglect. In cases of child abandonment, a parent leaves a child for an extended period of time without informing anybody of when they will return and never gives the child financial support. Abandonment can be determined when a certain amount of time has passed, if the parent’s identity has never been known, or if the parent’s location is unknown.

Termination of Parental Rights

Many states will also refer to abandonment as a form of child neglect when a child is placed in an unsafe situation. When this happens, the state will allow for the involuntary termination of parental rights. However, the parent’s unfit behavior must be shown to the court before this happens. The state must be able to prove at least one ground of unfit conduct before they can approve this. From there, there are many consequences of a termination. This means the parent will no longer have a legal relationship to a child. If one parent’s rights are terminated, this does not mean that the other parent will lose rights. However, if both parents lose rights, the termination may free the child for adoption or lead to permanent placement with a family.

How Abandonment and Full Custody Differ

Full custody means that they will generally have sole legal custody and sole physical custody or all rights related to raising a child. The parent who has custody will be able to make decisions regarding the other parent’s access to the child. However, the noncustodial parent may still have visitation rights with the child. The consequences of child abandonment are much different, where a termination legally ends the ability for the parent to see the child. The parent will not retain custody rights and will sometimes be prosecuted for the crime of abandoning their child.

Appeal and Reinstatement

When a termination of parental rights occurs, it is issued as final by the courts. However, given the right situation, a parent can appeal. An appeal will depend on the rules of the state and there may be time limits on these actions. Reinstatement to the original parents is unlikely; however, sometimes it does happen. For this, you will need the help of an experienced family law attorney.