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Child Abandonment and the Law

By: Angela Armes - Updated: 26 Sep 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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My ex husband hasn't made any contact with me or the children for almost 12 months. He does not pay any child maintenance. Apart from a brief period of about 9 months (while he was in a relationship with a relatively stable woman) he has not seen or paid towards the children since we split in 2013. He has 2 other children from other relationships, one has been adopted by her new step father and he has abandoned the other. His name is on my childrens birth certificate. My fiance who has lived with us for over a year, has taken on the role of their father and we would like him to adopt them. I believe my ex husband is now living abroad. If he is somehow tracked down and contests, will this prevent the adoption being granted?
LA - 26-Sep-17 @ 8:29 AM
.hy im readin threw my care files and I come a cross a application for compensation for me and my brother who was abonded ..the claim was disallowed as."neglect of a child is not a crime of violence and hence dose not fall within the scheme.no award.Paragraph 4 (a) of the scheme refers."..??. That dosnt ring well to me..is this right..thank you
keli - 8-Sep-17 @ 12:47 PM
Ad2017 - Your Question:
HiMy stepdaughter has been staying with us for the past 6weeks. She was supposed to stay for a weekend but her mother vanished. We can't reach her at all. She decides when she wants to make contact with us or any other family members. Last time we heard about her she was getting married in another country. My partner and I have never been told about all her plans. Now school resume and we still don't know where she is. Her council flat is empty, her neighbors have not seen or heard from her for several weeks. Can my partner ask for full custody as thery were not married when the child was conceived? Should we involve social services ? The council? The police?,,,Thanks for your help.

Our Response:
Is your partner's name on the birth certificate? If so he has parental responsibility and can apply for residency via the courts. If his name is not on the birth certificate but he is sure he is the biological father, he can apply to the courts for statutory declaration of parentage and therefore gain parental responsibility. He would then be able to apply for a residence order. Yes it's definitely worth contacting social services your step daughter is 16 or under.
LawAndParents - 6-Sep-17 @ 2:35 PM
Hi My stepdaughter has been staying with us for the past 6weeks. She was supposed to stay for a weekend but her mother vanished. We can't reach her at all. She decides when she wants to make contact with us or any other family members. Last time we heard about her she was getting married in another country.My partner and I have never been told about all her plans. Now school resume and we still don't know where she is. Her council flat is empty, her neighbors have not seen or heard from her for several weeks. Can my partner ask for full custody as thery were not married when the child was conceived? Should we involve social services ? The council? The police?,,, Thanks for your help.
Ad2017 - 5-Sep-17 @ 1:43 AM
User- Your Question:
Can a parent out their child into care? Will social services allow it?I can no longer cope and struggling severely. I have such negative feelings towards my child and as time progresses I am beginning to hate him.

Our Response:
Speak to someone, there is help out there that you can consider before this step.Can you start by asking your health visitor for advice or your GP may be able refer you to organisations that might help. You could also try contact support organisations like Home Start
Gingerbread
or
Family Lives
LawAndParents - 27-Jul-17 @ 12:47 PM
Can a parent out their child into care? Will social services allow it? I can no longer cope and struggling severely. I have such negative feelings towards my child and as time progresses I am beginning to hate him.
User - 23-Jul-17 @ 9:30 PM
My daughters dad has been out Of the picture not for nearly a year and a half could I get his rights terminated? I have no clue where he is and he has blocked me on all social media accounts and mobile numbers. We did mediation before and he failed to show up I have messages from a year an a half ago stating he was going to kill me and threatining behaviour. What can I do??? Please help. He IS on the birth certificate and she has his last name. I want this changed if possible
Jlx - 10-Jul-17 @ 8:33 PM
Lucille - Your Question:
Hi I'm wanting to change my son's name his dad has not seen him for nearly 8 years and to do it by deed poll I still need his dad's consent is there any other way I can do this thank you

Our Response:
You will need to apply directly to the General Register Office. If you can prove that you do not know the whereabouts of your son's father they may be willing to do it without a court order. If a court order is needed it is form C100.
LawAndParents - 5-Jul-17 @ 11:59 AM
Hi I'm wanting to change my son's name his dad has not seen him for nearly 8 years and to do it by deed poll I still need his dad's consent is there any other way I can do this thank you
Lucille - 4-Jul-17 @ 5:19 PM
Jobin - Your Question:
Hi, I recently lost my son and his ex-girlfriend struggles to raise our grandchildren by her self.She has agreed to me helping her, as I always have and we often have them overnight and for holidays etc.What is the best way forward - could I get joint parental responsibility with her consent?I'm not looking for them to live with me - just to safeguard them should anything happen.

Our Response:
You can arrange for a Parental Responsibility Agreement to be signed you and the children's mother.
LawAndParents - 3-Jul-17 @ 2:48 PM
Hi my name is amarjeet i am 17 yrs oldi am facing problems with family. They dont behave gud with me. They always prefer my small brother as a gud one and better one. I am being neglicted. He is small but he is strongerthnme so he tease bully me and parents take his side .whenever they are talking ,if i come they stop talking and say let him go. They dint treat me as a family.i dont want to live with them.
Amar - 3-Jul-17 @ 10:27 AM
Hi, I recently lost my son and his ex-girlfriend struggles to raise our grandchildren by her self. She has agreed to me helping her, as I always have and we often have them overnight and for holidays etc. What is the best way forward - could I get joint parental responsibility with her consent? I'm not looking for them to live with me - just to safeguard them should anything happen.
Jobin - 3-Jul-17 @ 9:58 AM
My Son was shared 50 50 with my ex until I found 9 caught him out) that he had left him at home alone aged 6. My son was ill in bed at the time. I took my son home and through mediation after a year my ex sees him every other weekend in supervised situations and in public spaces such as cinemas, bowling , parks and playdates with other families. Never overnight! It came to light that the incident was one of many times my Son had been left on his own and I am not sure how young he was when it first happened. I have been amicable for my sons sake but now I have been hit once more with a letter from a solicitor wanting everything to go back to 50/50. I never got a reason for him leaving him alone other than him being a bit depressed. I am not prepared for things to go back to shared custody until Tom is old enough to be left alone and make his own decisions. Will I have to go though court to make this happen. I feel I have already let him have so much as in most break ups the custody is not 50/50 and every fortnight is a norm.
meem - 21-Jun-17 @ 6:41 PM
Hi my step son has been staying with us this weekend and he was supposed to be collected on Monday but his mother asked for us to have him one more day. We agreed to this but now his mother has vanished we can't get intouch with her and she hasnt turned up to collect her son. We haven't heard from her since Friday when she dropped him off and was more concerned about getting drunk this weekend then anything else. We're do we stand as I can't keep dropping hours in work as and when it suits her to come for her child.
Kkl81 - 30-May-17 @ 8:29 PM
Reethu - Your Question:
My daughter has fallen in love we don't like the guy but now she is graduating in a college she 21 years old and if we sent her out of the house what rights she can claim from us. she says she won't get married untill she finish studying.if we sent her out if she doesn't listen to our words do we have to pay for her education untill she is married.And can she claim the rights in my self accquired property while I am alive for her education

Our Response:
Most children lose the right to support from their parents at the age of 16 or 18 if they're studying up to A level standard. After that they are adults.
LawAndParents - 22-May-17 @ 12:34 PM
My daughter has fallen in love we don't like the guy but now she is graduating in a college she 21 years old and if we sent her out of the house what rights she can claim from us. she says she won't get married untill she finish studying .if we sent her out if she doesn't listen to our words do we have to pay for her education untill she is married.And can she claim the rights in my self accquired property while i am alive for her education
Reethu - 21-May-17 @ 2:05 PM
What can be done to redress the situation of children who are abandoned abroad by their single parent mother. without the awareness of social services.What can be done if the situation is either historic or in the present?
Lacey - 12-May-17 @ 8:48 PM
lyns - Your Question:
Hi I need advice I have my 4 year old grandson with me he has lived with me since 6 months old father has seen him for 20 mins in the last 2 years and his mum seen him once from 2015-2016 how do I go about being his legal guardian

Our Response:
You can apply to the courts for a special guardianship order. This order will appoint you to be your grandson's 'special guardian' under the Children Act 1989.This kind of order is for children who would benefit from a more stable/legally secure living arrangement. Your grandson's parents would have to apply to the courts if they wanted to discharge the order.
LawAndParents - 3-May-17 @ 2:06 PM
hi i need advice i have my 4 year old grandson with me he has lived with me since 6 months old father has seen him for 20 mins in the last 2 years and his mum seen him once from 2015-2016 how do i go about being his legal guardian
lyns - 3-May-17 @ 2:28 AM
I need advice on how to move forward with the situation.My daughter is 17 soon to be 18, she has a 7 month old son.she is constantly taking off on drug induced binges that last up to 4 days. She only comes home when threatened or found at drug houses. The dad has always stayed at home with baby but she doesn't call or check in. Dad is over 19 so he is on the lease. She is on social services paid her rent but spends child tax and all her money on drugs. The dad has a part time job but can't goto work because she is never home to take care of baby and he is constantly calling in to miss shifts. My daughter has taken off now for 2 weeks no calls to home no checking in. She is using meth and has admitted it to all family.I went to the house yesterday,baby has barely no milk and no diapers I bathed him got some grocheries and cleaned up the house. What do I do.
Heart broken - 12-Apr-17 @ 7:21 PM
Concernedstepmum - Your Question:
Hi could you offer some advice please?My step daughter (7)'s mum has a self appointed schedule of care (55/45) split in her favour and has set the schedule herself however, she refuses to actually stick to it. It is mainly for child support purposes that she has it set out. Sometimes when we go to take sd to her mum's for drop off in her days, she simply won't be there as she has made other plans and is usually out with friends somewhere and so we have to cancel our plans and look after sd. We absolutely want sd 50/50 so we are happy to have her more but would like it to be in an official capacity and therefore would like to document it somehow that she is not caring for her daughter the amount of times she says she does. Both for evidence for the cms and for future custody hearings. She is likely to do this this coming Sunday. Is there someone we can report it to if she is missing at the agreed time of drop off? So that it is on record?Many thanks

Our Response:
Not really. But you could make your own records - note down times and date, film vacant house when you arrive (include date with all footage), keep copies of text conversations with your step daughter's mother etc. That way when you apply for 50/50 residency via a court order, they will have some evidence to look at.
LawAndParents - 31-Mar-17 @ 12:39 PM
Hi could you offer some advice please?My step daughter (7)'s mum has a self appointed schedule of care (55/45) split in her favour and has set the schedule herself however, she refuses to actually stick to it. It is mainly for child support purposes that she has it set out. Sometimes when we go to take sd to her mum's for drop off in her days, she simply won't be there as she has made other plans and is usually out with friends somewhere and so we have to cancel our plans and look after sd. We absolutely want sd 50/50 so we are happy to have her more but would like it to be in an official capacity and therefore would like to document it somehow that she is not caring for her daughter the amount of times she says she does. Both for evidence for the cms and for future custody hearings. She is likely to do this this coming Sunday. Is there someone we can report it to if she is missing at the agreed time of drop off? So that it is on record?Many thanks
Concernedstepmum - 30-Mar-17 @ 5:49 PM
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
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