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Child Abandonment and the Law

By: Angela Armes - Updated: 25 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Child Abandonment Abandonment Social

As much as we as parents would like to convince ourselves that such a problem does not exist, the problem of child abandonment is one that is all too real. For some, the stress and responsibility of being a parent is just too much, and under great emotional stress and turmoil a parent struggling to cope may leave their children unattended.

For others, the responsibility of being a parent – especially at a young age – is too much and the desire to recapture their own lost youth results in a mother or father leaving their child or children alone.

The Law and Child Abandonment

Child abandonment is considered to be the act of leaving of a child on their own without any intention of returning to ensure their safety and wellbeing. It is considered to be among the most serious of offences a parent can commit in relation to their child.

Child abandonment is normally discovered if a child or children are left alone for a long period of time and are observed to be behaving in a manner not normally befitting of their behaviour. This may include the children wandering around the area in which they live at peculiar times, asking others as to the whereabouts of their parent or children misbehaving or causing trouble in order to seek attention.

What Happens if a Child is found to be Abandoned

If a child has been abandoned, the law must step in at once in order to secure their safety. The likeliest course of action is for social services to be called in. They will attempt to contact another family member into whose care the child will be placed. This is deemed a temporary measure initially, but in the cases of child abandonment that have documented, this can become a long-term arrangement, especially if the parent does not return or shows no signs of being able to cope.

In the absence of any other family, the child will be placed in foster care until a family member can be located or until the courts, in conjunction with social services, make a decision as to what course of action should be taken.

What is the Penalty for Child Abandonment?

The penalty for child abandonment is usually a custodial sentence – especially if it is proven beyond any doubt that the parent responsible was of sound mind at the time of the abandonment. Social services, along with the police and local authority, will normally try to establish if there have been any mitigating circumstances that have lead up to the offence occurring, such as a bereavement, signs of emotional distress or the break-up of a marriage or relationship.

If there are signs of such emotional distress, the parent will be required to undergo counselling and also may be instructed to participate in parenting classes while their child is looked after in foster care.

With all parties discussing the circumstances surrounding such abandonment, the parent may be reunited with their children, but may be supervised for a set period of time by social services and welfare officers until it is deemed appropriate to allow them to care for their children unsupervised.

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Redwolf26694 - Your Question:
Hello everyone, I need some advice please. My daughter was born in august 2015 and her father left us in march 2016 to pursue a relationship with an 18 year old co-worker. for the first few months he made some effort to keep in contact with my little girl but gradually became less and less, until I met my current partner to whom I'm now happily engaged and expecting baby number 2! we moved in with him in may 2016 which is a fair distance from where my daughter's biological father lives (about an hour and a half - two hour drive) since moving he has practically ceased all contact, we have lived here almost a year and he has visited once. My current partner absolutely adores my little girl and wants more than anything to adopt her. He does everything for her and she loves him like her daddy (she doesn't know or recognize her biological father) I know that my ex will not willingly give up parental rights even though he makes no effort. He doesn't even pay child maintenance. Is there a way that we can have my partner adopt her? I just want to giver her a happy home that is completely secure! Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated! Thankyou x

Our Response:
No, he cannot adopt her unless the father consents and is willing to give up his parental responsibility rights.
LawAndParents - 27-Mar-17 @ 10:27 AM
Hello everyone, i need some advice please. My daughter was born in august 2015 and her father left us in march 2016 to pursue a relationship with an 18 year old co-worker. for the first few months he made some effort to keep in contact with my little girl but gradually became less and less, until i met my current partner to whom I'm now happily engaged and expecting baby number 2! we moved in with him in may 2016 which is a fair distance from where my daughter's biological father lives (about an hour and a half - two hour drive) since moving he has practically ceased all contact, we have lived here almost a year and he has visited once. My current partner absolutely adores my little girl and wants more than anything to adopt her. He does everything for her and she loves him like her daddy (she doesn't know or recognize her biological father) I know that my ex will not willingly give up parental rights even though he makes no effort. He doesn't even pay child maintenance. Is there a way that we can have my partner adopt her? I just want to giver her a happy home that is completely secure! Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated! Thankyou x
Redwolf26694 - 25-Mar-17 @ 1:05 AM
PawPaw - Your Question:
My wife of 14 years and I have had our three grandchildren (ages 5, 8 & 10) in our care for almost one year now. Our daughter has been using drugs and excessively drinking. Due to this, she is unable to keep a job or suitable home for the children. She left them with us in order to "get her life back together." She has done the opposite. She has been bouncing around from place to place partying instead of getting back on track. It is now apparent the she has chosen to run free instead of take the responsibility of her children seriously. She sees the children occasionally. Sometimes there is contact for a couple hours once a week. Sometimes there is no contact for a month at a time. My wife and I were happy to have the grandchildren with us so that they were and are safe and taken care of. We never gained custody or guardianship of the children. We just wanted to look after them and enjoy their company. Our daughter was next door (we own two houses) yesterday because she has nowhere else to go. She decided to get drunk and was told by the police last night to leave the area because she was belligerent and drunk. She was very aggressive and verbally abusive with everyone she came in contact with, including the police. When she left it was quite a scene. Now she has stated that she wants to take the children to live with her. However, she does not have anywhere suitable to go herself. How do I protect our grandchildren from her angry and drunken bad choices that put them in harms way?

Our Response:
Seek legal advice, you may be able to apply for a special guardianship order or similar. Are social services involved? If so, they may be able to advise.
LawAndParents - 14-Mar-17 @ 11:47 AM
My wife of 14 years and I have had our three grandchildren (ages 5, 8 & 10) in our care for almost one year now. Our daughter has been using drugs and excessively drinking. Due to this, she is unable to keep a job or suitable home for the children. She left them with us in order to "get her life back together." She has done the opposite. She has been bouncing around from place to place partying instead of getting back on track. It is now apparent the she has chosen to run free instead of take the responsibility of her children seriously. She sees the children occasionally. Sometimes there is contact for a couple hours once a week. Sometimes there is no contact for a month at a time. My wife and I were happy to have the grandchildren with us so that they were and are safe and taken care of. We never gained custody or guardianship of the children. We just wanted to look after them and enjoy their company. Our daughter was next door (we own two houses) yesterday because she has nowhere else to go. She decided to get drunk and was told by the police last night to leave the area because she was belligerent and drunk. She was very aggressive and verbally abusive with everyone she came in contact with, including the police. When she left it was quite a scene. Now she has stated that she wants to take the children to live with her. However, she does not have anywhere suitable to go herself. How do I protect our grandchildren from her angry and drunken bad choices that put them in harms way?
PawPaw - 12-Mar-17 @ 7:50 AM
Hi 8 years ago I had to take my ex girlfriend to court after she stopped me from seeing my 2 children and my step daughter (I had been in her life for 8 yrs prior to the split) during the court case social service spoke with me to discuss the 3 children to come to live with me and my then girlfriend of 3 years, of course I went with it and 6 years ago the judge said that the children were to live with me the children's mother refused to attend court and moved on with her life and moved to another part of the country (the children felt like she had gone to another world) the problem I am having is that I am the only one named in the court order and even though I married my girlfriend she has no rights to PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY yes its a big word it's a big deal for us Me and my eldest (step child) had a car accident and I had to give up my right to treatment so I could sign the permissions for the paramedics to treat her in the ambulance now a year later I am suffering from the fact that I wasn't treated for hours later If my wife had PR I wouldn't be suffering simply because of the mother who disappeared all them years ago and my wife has no rights over the children who she nurses when ill and hugs them when they are sad feeds them clothes them The law is a load of people who don't know what real life is If I want my wife to have PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY I have to pay £1000's to go to court and get a new court order so my wife is legally allowed to sign a school permission slip or to go to the doctors and give permission for treatment or medication The mother has gotten away with financial responsibilities and still has PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY for children she clearly does not care about or has no interest in Why is there a law that if a person has abandoned their child after so many years they should loss any rights to the child and the other parent should be able to choose who could have parental responsibility ie a step parent without having to go to court If I died what would happen to my children would I have to name my wife to have the responsibility of the children?
Special dad - 29-Jan-17 @ 6:24 PM
Idk if you guys still respond to comments but I am completing a project for Social Studies, grade 11 and I would like to know if it is a legal offense to abandon a child
Hunt - 23-Jan-17 @ 7:55 AM
I left my husband after 13 years of marriage for a same sex relationship. My ex refused to let me take the children with me and will not allow me to tell the children about my partner or meet her. I go through to his house 4 days a week and stay over 1 night to care for them and pay for them each week. He now has a new girlfriend who he has been seeing for a month. He wants them to meet her. Initially I said yes because I thought it might help my situation but it became clear he had no intention of being fair. He's now saying he'll take me to court preventing me from introducing them to my partner, citing abandonment. I have not abandoned them. Our arrangement is because that is how he wants it, not me. Can he do this? What is likely to happen?
Kh78 - 29-Dec-16 @ 7:45 AM
Hi there, my boyfriend's ex lost her council house (?!) in June and asked for her two children to live with us for the rest of the school term. She took them to her mum's, who lives in a different city a few hours away, for the summer and brought them back for the start of school (they missed the first week as we had already booked a holiday). She doesn't seem to have made any plans re new housing or getting a job and won't answer any questions asked. The eldest child is 13, but isn't my boyfriend's child although he sees him as his dad, and has now been in our care for more than 28 days having not spent more than a continuous 7 hours in her care. She could easily move back in with her mum and sort new schools out for the boys, but is living with a new boyfriend in this city. What do we do in this situation?
FH - 6-Oct-16 @ 4:11 PM
Hi I am 17 and my mom refuses to take any care for me what so ever. She removed all my belongings from her house and basically told me good luck. I know I am almost legally of age but is there still any way right now I can use the child abandonment law against her until I'm 17
Alice - 2-Oct-16 @ 3:29 AM
My 14 year old grand daughter has been toldby her mother she doesn't want her anymore, she is staying at our home.A social worker has been in correspondence with the mother but there has been no contact with child or her father. The case has been on going for almost three weeks. My grand daughter has been physically abused, emotionally, mentally, verbally, not allowed to bathe/shower etc, she regally smokes pot and amphetamines
googoo - 25-Sep-16 @ 9:47 PM
Hi Please I need some advices and help My ex boyfriend left me pregnant and he abandoned me and his child . We never been married and we are different nationalities.I decided to make he pay for his lies.. I want he to support and help me with some money to grow my daughter. What I should do ? What are the steps to start this process? How isthe best to do everything right and by low ? Sincerely Margo
Margo - 15-Sep-16 @ 9:38 PM
catsi - Your Question:
My ex husband left me and our four children for another girl nineteen years ago he never bothered with our children who are now in their late twenties our daughter is fine but our three sons are really messed up they have been in and out of prison and have also turned to drugs ive tried my best but when they have tried to contact him he has had no time for them I really feel that his abandonment has affected my sons and I think he is mostly to blame for the way they have turned out is there any law that can make him pay for this?

Our Response:
Unfortunately not. There is nothing in a law that can force a father to maintain contact with his children if he chooses not to.
LawAndParents - 12-Sep-16 @ 2:35 PM
My ex husband left me and our four children for another girl nineteen years ago he never bothered with our children who are now in their late twenties our daughter is fine but our three sons are really messed up they have been in and out of prison and have also turned to drugs ive tried my best but when they have tried to contact him he has had no time for them i really feel that his abandonment has affected my sons and i think he is mostly to blame for the way they have turned out is there any law that can make him pay for this?
catsi - 9-Sep-16 @ 11:37 PM
We are an expatriate British family living and working on an island in the South Pacific to where I accepted a three year work transfer in 2014. I have two daughters. The younger attends our local international school and the elder, who turns 18 in October, is in her final year at boarding school in New Zealand. I know this sounds absolutely horrible and it breaks my heart but I do not want my elder back after she has completed her schooling in November. As she will then be 18 years old would I still be liable to any form of prosecution in New Zealand (even though I am not living there) or after we return to the UK if I 'abandon' her in New Zealand after she has completed her schooling?
Frustrated - 29-Aug-16 @ 2:54 PM
Jason T - Your Question:
Hi, my brother's girlfriend leaves her child at our house without our permission and picks him up usually around 12 to 16ish hours later than when she told her son she would pick him up. She knows her and her son are not welcome but she still leaves her son and drives off and turns off her phone so we can't call her or send him back. What can I have done to stop this from happening?

Our Response:
You could contact the social services? Or the police.
LawAndParents - 17-Aug-16 @ 12:12 PM
Hi, my brother's girlfriend leaves her child at our house without our permission and picks him up usually around 12 to 16ish hours later than when she told her son she would pick him up. She knows her and her son are not welcome but she still leaves her son and drives off and turns off her phone so we can't call her or send him back. What can I have done to stop this from happening?
Jason T - 16-Aug-16 @ 4:28 PM
Nancy - Your Question:
I found an abandoned small child walking by herself in the road late in the evening?

Our Response:
If this happens, you should call the police and wait for them - do not take the child anywhere with you.
LawAndParents - 15-Aug-16 @ 11:46 AM
I found an abandoned small child walking by herself in the road late in the evening?
Nancy - 12-Aug-16 @ 9:52 AM
Hi. My step-daughter is wanting to take my name and rid herself of her bio-fathers name. He knows where we live yet has failed to make contact with my step-daughter in over 3yrs. We have attempted in the past to change her name yet the courts would not allow this as he is on her birth certificate and he would not give permission, since then he has not had any contact with her. I have heard of the 'Abandonment' law and wonder if this applies in this case and would we be able to proceed without his consent.
Step-parent - 5-Mar-16 @ 7:42 PM
I have a daughter with my ex who is now married. Please note that me and my ex were not married. She is now marries and her husband is wanting to adopt my daughter which I'm all for.What type of routes can they go down and also will him adopting her remove all legal and financial responsibility
Shubba - 20-Feb-16 @ 3:21 PM
Hi I have a son that was once placed in foster care. The father and i worked hard to get him placed back into our custody. But the father couldn't stay clean. So ileft him ,after the split he didn'tcommunicate to social services and the courts and never visited our son .I eventually got granted custody back of my son and as for the father they put downabandonment... does he have any rights and can he take me to court
Jojo - 12-Feb-16 @ 3:54 PM
my wife and i separated over a year ago, there were a number of reasons for this but one of the reasons had been that she had a mental breakdown due to her son, my step son, sexually molesting our daughter.Our daughter was 4 at the time and my stepson was 12.after we separated my stepson ended up living with me, social services were involved and a child protection plan was put in place.one of the conditions was that he was not to be allowed around the children unsupervised, which goes without question. However, my stepsons behaviour has become more and more unruly, and he has been permanently excluded from school and he has started smoking cannabis.He has shown violent and aggresive behaviour towards others, and this has strained mine and his relationship with each other to breaking point.I informed social services that this was the case and that my mental health had suffered and that i felt no longer able to have him in my care any longer.They said that they would need to have an edge of care meeting to see what support they could offer to prevent him becoming a looked after child.However, I told therm that i didnt think that it was a good idea that he remained in my home as there had been a violent confrontation between him and myself and that i did not want this to end up worse.they then went on to contact his mother saying that she would need to provide alternative accommodation for him.She informed them that there was no other family member who was willing to take him in because of his behaviour, and that she did not think it was appropriate to have him at home with her and the other children for the same reason.Social services went on to tell her that if she did not provide alternative accommodation for him they would have to prosecute her for child abandonment.could you advise us about this as i feel as though i have been forced into a difficult position
charlie - 11-Jan-16 @ 2:50 PM
doozer - Your Question:
Hi. Firstly I must explain I am a childminder. One of my minded children has recently basically been dumped by his mother, but with the child's grandmother. This happened 10 days ago. The child was left to enter the house and mum drove off. There has since been no communication. Refusal to answer door or phone. We have discovered where she is and who with but she seems to have had some sort of breakdown? Certainly is obviously unable to cope. Is this abandonment? How to react? I am trying to work closely with the grandparents involved. Any advice please.

Our Response:
The social services/police would usually be involved in this kind of circumstance. If the grandmother is happy to care for the child and the mother is seeking help, then as the childminder you do not any other responsibility.
LawAndParents - 11-Jan-16 @ 12:10 PM
Hi. Firstly I must explain I am a childminder.One of my minded children has recently basically been dumped by his mother, but with the child's grandmother. This happened 10 days ago. The child was left to enter the house and mum drove off. There has since been no communication. Refusal to answer door or phone. We have discovered where she is and who with but she seems to have had some sort of breakdown? Certainly is obviously unable to cope. Is this abandonment? How to react? I am trying to work closely with the grandparents involved. Any advice please.
doozer - 10-Jan-16 @ 12:42 AM
Seeking help - Your Question:
Hi! I don't know much about laws in the UK, since I personally live in another countre and I haven't lived in UK ever, but I have a friend there and I really want to help him out. He is really close to me despites the fact that we have hundreds of kilometers distance and have never met. Long story. But anyways. Let's say his name is John. So John was home alone when a police came knocking the door and told there was a criminal on loose around and they would do a search around the street. Of course John locked the doors, took a knife just in case to protect himself and went upstairs. A while later he saw a guy ouside near their house and of course called the cops and hid. What else would've he done? Soon cops came and caught the guu amd announced it's all okay now. In the evening John's mother came and he told what had happened. John's mother became mad at him and told he should've went downstairs and protect the house, saying "what if the guy would've came in and stole something valuable". So apparently John's life wasnt valuable since the guy was dangerous. She also used names 'worthless' and 'coward' during their fight, which based on what I've read can be taken as emotional violence. next day John's mother had told it to John's dad and they told they don't want John back home and that his mother had already packed a bag for John.Plese, what should John do at this situation, and are there any sort of kids' shelters in the UK? And how can a child under 18 do anything about this? I know he can't sue her and mother would only make her more mad? It feels really bad because of the distance I can't do anything about it.

Our Response:
If he has nowhere to go or has been the victim of abuse from his parents, phoning an organisation like Childline might help.
LawAndParents - 8-Dec-15 @ 11:13 AM
Hi! I don't know much about laws in the UK, since I personally live in another countre and I haven't lived in UK ever, but i have a friend there and I really want to help him out. He is really close to me despites the fact that we have hundreds of kilometers distance and have never met. Long story. But anyways. Let's say his name is John. So John was home alone when a police came knocking the door and told there was a criminal on loose around and they would do a search around the street. Of course John locked the doors, took a knife just in case to protect himself and went upstairs. A while later he saw a guy ouside near their house and of course called the cops and hid. What else would've he done? Soon cops came and caught the guu amd announced it's all okay now. In the evening John's mother came and he told what had happened. John's mother became mad at him and told he should've went downstairs and protect the house, saying "what if the guy would've came in and stole something valuable". So apparently John's life wasnt valuable since the guy was dangerous. She also used names 'worthless' and 'coward' during their fight, which based on what I've read can be taken as emotional violence.next day John's mother had told it to John's dad and they told they don't want John back home and that his mother had already packed a bag for John. Plese, what should John do at this situation, and are there any sort of kids' shelters in the UK? And how can a child under 18 do anything about this? I know he can't sue her and mother would only make her more mad? It feels really bad because of the distance I can't do anything about it.
Seeking help - 7-Dec-15 @ 1:52 PM
joanne - Your Question:
Hi there. My husband left me and my 3 kids over 4 years ago and hasn't had any contact what so ever, I'm with a new partner now and a new baby and my other children want to take his name, I'm just wondering what rights my husband has if any. Thanks

Our Response:
You will need to get the consent of the father in order to change the children's names. If he is unwilling to agree (and you must try and get this before proceeding), then you should apply for a specific issue order via court form C100.
LawAndParents - 6-Oct-15 @ 1:58 PM
Hi there. My husband left me and my 3 kids over 4 years ago and hasn't had any contact what so ever, I'm with a new partner now and a new baby and my other children want to take his name, I'm just wondering what rights my husband has if any. Thanks
joanne - 5-Oct-15 @ 7:24 PM
mr deperates friend - Your Question:
I have a friend that is a single dad with 2 teenage girls, he has just split up from his girlfriend and has nothing not even a change of clothes, and is so emotionally distraught that he feels he cant care for his children.social services have placed him in a B&B 40 miles away from there school and he is expected to get them there every day, he has no job!the children do not want to live with him and cannot live with their mother (court order in place).the girls are saying that they want to go into care and if he don't let them go they will run away, he has asked social services to take them but they are refusing saying that they have to stay with him. the kids don't want to and he really cant cope, I am worried that he will try to do something like try to take his own life just so the girls will be looked after properly, can he take the children to the social services office and leave them there in theory abandoning them, if so what will happen to him ?

Our Response:
Is there any other family who can help out here? Has he applied for housing that is suitable for the girls to be with him? He sounds as though he needs some kind of professional support here (that he's not getting from social services) - he should talk toCitizen's Advice or the girls' school welfare officer to see if there are any alternative suggestions that he has not considered.
LawAndParents - 3-Sep-15 @ 12:05 PM
I have a friend that is a single dad with 2 teenage girls, he has just split up from his girlfriend and has nothing not even a change of clothes, and is so emotionally distraught that he feels he cant care for his children. social services have placed him in a B&B 40 miles away from there school and he is expected to get them there every day, he has no job! the children do not want to live with him and cannot live with their mother (court order in place). the girls are saying that they want to go into care and if he don't let them go they will run away, he has asked social services to take them but they are refusing saying that they have to stay with him. the kids don't want to and he really cant cope, I am worried that he will try to do something like try to take his own life just so the girls will be looked after properly, can he take the children to the social services office and leave them there in theory abandoning them, if so what will happen to him ?
mr deperates friend - 2-Sep-15 @ 9:16 PM
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