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Child Abandonment and the Law

By: Angela Armes - Updated: 1 Sep 2018 | 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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Hi we have an adopted son 6 years old. We have had severe threatening and physical behaviour from him since day 1 for 19 months now and recently he has threatened us on several occasions to kill us with a knife. Once he chased with one and another I stopped him going in drawer to get one. Social services were asked 4 weeks ago to remove him but we are still waiting and just found out that it as o my just been referred for a new placement to be found. We have heard about people giving social services 48 /72 hours warning to find the child a placement or they would be dropping g the child of at their office. Is this advisable to do, can't handle the physical violance anymore and can't wait for him to go.
Jo - 1-Sep-18 @ 5:22 PM
My daughter is 6 next week, she’s only seen her dad once this year and that was down to me contacting him if he wanted to see her promised her he’d come down the week after and never turned up, he’s been like this for 4 years even before that he was never interested in her, I was told that I could say something about pleading abandonment but don’t really know anything about it
Mum - 18-Aug-18 @ 3:37 PM
T - Your Question:
Hi, I have been left in a situation I don't have answers to my ex partner has expressed countless times that she is growing resentful of our son (10) and they don't have the best relationship together. The situation is now his mother has left him with me for a week now with no contact to her son or me even after me texting her. I have been to Social work to seek advice and a family lawyer for the same and long story short is that I am told that I could have a lengthy court battle ahead of me which I may not win or we speak amicably and arrange access by both parents. The position I'm left with is that I know there is emotional abuse and that my son is really unhappy staying at his mothers house but I feel I don't have a leg to stand on and my sons feelings are not being taken seriously and feel this would have a real impact on his well being if he was forced to go and stay somewhere he feels makes him sad.

Our Response:
Why would you "not have a leg to stand on"? If the mother is feeling resentful of her son and you want him with you, is the answer not simple? A court would luck favourably on anything that is in the best interests of the child. You also consider apply for shared care. The courts will expect you to have attended mediation before applying for court so it's worth giving this a try. If your ex doesn't turn up at mediation, this will make it easier for you to progress this to court. For now, just keep hold of your son, reassure him that he will be fine and try to maintain some kind of routine in his life.
LawAndParents - 14-Aug-18 @ 2:50 PM
Bazinho - Your Question:
My Portuguese wife's daughter had a baby in England and that baby has a British Birth Certificate.Both parents left England, the father was here for the birth and a couple of weeks for her 1st birthday and that's it, his whereabouts are currently unknown.Her mother went back to Portugal March 2017.My wife, the babies grandmother and myself, her step grandfather, have an arrangement order that gives us responsibility for her and she has lived with us ever since. we have twice tried to obtain a British Passport and have been refused on the grounds that the the child is not a British Citizen.We have been to court several time, once to obtain the Arrangement Order and twice to try and obtain an SGO. The last time we went to court the Judge amended the Arrangement Order as both parents had gone and we have responsibility for the child, which we are very happy about. All we want to do is obtain the said Passport.We seem to be going around in circles.

Our Response:
>It might be worth seeking advice from an organisation such as Family Rights Group who might be able to help more. Unless you have a full residence order or the SGO you're after, it might be a bit more complicated.
LawAndParents - 13-Aug-18 @ 2:28 PM
My Portuguese wife's daughter had a baby in England and that baby has a British Birth Certificate. Both parents left England, the father was here for the birth and a couple of weeks for her 1st birthday and that's it, his whereabouts are currently unknown. Her mother went back to Portugal March 2017. My wife, the babies grandmother and myself, her step grandfather, have an arrangement order that gives us responsibility for her and she has livedwith us ever since. we have twice tried to obtain a British Passport and have been refused on the grounds that the the child is not a British Citizen. We have been to court several time, once to obtain the Arrangement Order and twice to try and obtain an SGO. The last time we went to court the Judge amended the Arrangement Order as both parents had gone and we have responsibility for the child, which we are very happy about. All we want to do is obtain the said Passport. We seem to be going around in circles.
Bazinho - 13-Aug-18 @ 10:04 AM
Hi, I have been left in a situation I don't have answers to my ex partner has expressed countless times that she is growing resentful of our son (10) and they don't have the best relationship together. The situation is now his mother has left him with me for a week now with no contact to her son or me even after me texting her. I have been to Social work to seek advice and a family lawyer for the same and long story short is that I am told that I could have a lengthy court battle ahead of me which I may not win or we speak amicably and arrange access by both parents. The position I'm left with is that I know there is emotional abuse and that my son is really unhappy staying at his mothers house but I feel I don't have a leg to stand on and my sons feelings are not being taken seriously and feel this would have a real impact on his well being if he was forced to go and stay somewhere he feels makes him sad.
T - 2-Aug-18 @ 1:33 PM
Hi! I need some help.. My daughter is 4, her biological father (who IS on her birth certificate) hasn't had any contact with myself or my daughter and hasn't paid a penny since she was 11 months old, he hasn't tried at all to contact us, can this be classed as abandonment? I am looking at my partner adopting her, we have been together for 3 years, & looking to get married, & she calls him dad , but I'm worried that her biological dad will not agree and sign the papers for adoption , he isn't a fit father and I was in a domestic abuse relationship with him... I was put into a refuge due to this. I have a residence order and an order to state no one can take her out of my care without permission (I cannot remember what this order is called) I also have no idea where he is as he travels alot and moves around finding different girlfriends to live with just to have somewhere to live. Thank you for your help.
Jo - 21-Jul-18 @ 12:04 AM
My mum ignored me when I was a 5 yr old for her new boyfriend (now husband) and its kinda made me grow up different to other kids. as I grew up, I didn't receive much love from my parents and I wasn't allowed to be as free as any child should be. even now, a good decade later, im still not getting the love parents should give a child. is this a form of child abandonment or am I being overdramatic?
snekysnek - 9-Jul-18 @ 12:46 PM
one of the good dads - Your Question:
I've been separated from my sons mum for over 5 years, never missing a single payment or failing to show up on the time, I see my boy twice for sleep overs in the week then every other weekend. I now live my new fiancé and were due to get married next year, she's a wonderful influence on my sons life and they have a superb bond. My Ex ( aged 27) still lives at home with her parents and recently in the last year has been going out the country (without letting me know) , going out to party's leaving my son with her parents ( his grandparents) am I wrong in thinking this is total lack of responsibility? I have tried to talk to her about it but I get the door closed in my face. I would bend over backwards to have my son more, and have offered to have him extra so she can go out and live her life how she wants too. we recently had to go to hospital with him and he required a operation ( his first one aged 7) and within 5 minutes of us being told about his operation, all she was bothered about was missing her Hair appointment!!! During his stay at hospital, every occasion where only one parent was allowed in the room, I took a step back and offered it to his mum, but every time he would push her away and demand me to be with him and me only. What can I do?

Our Response:
You could ask for more contact or even a residency order if you think that is in your son's best interests. If your ex is not willing to agree, you will need to try mediation and then if no agreement can be reached there apply to the courts for the order.
LawAndParents - 15-May-18 @ 10:47 AM
I've been separated from my sons mum for over 5 years, never missing a single payment or failing to show up on the time, I see my boy twice for sleep overs in the week then every other weekend. I now live my new fiancé and were due to get married next year, she's a wonderful influence on my sons life and they have a superb bond.My Ex ( aged 27) still lives at home with her parents and recently in the last year has been going out the country (without letting me know) , going out to party's leaving my son with her parents ( his grandparents) am I wrong in thinking this is total lack of responsibility? I have tried to talk to her about it but I get the door closed in my face. I would bend over backwards to have my son more, and have offered to have him extra so she can go out and live her life how she wants too. we recently had to go to hospital with him and he required a operation ( his first one aged 7) and within 5 minutes of us being told about his operation, all she was bothered about was missing her Hair appointment!!! During his stay at hospital, every occasion where only one parent was allowed in the room, I took a step back and offeredit to his mum, but every time he would push her away and demand me to be with him and me only. What can I do?
one of the good dads - 11-May-18 @ 7:30 AM
I am being threatened with abandonment if I don't take my violent sucidle daughter home.. she attacked me and her younger sister after smashing the place uo. I have been asking for help for 6 months. CAHMS have been involved but no change if anything she is worse. She is currently staying with her friend (she is 15) and refusing to come home and i need to keep myself and my younger daughter safe! They haven't seen my troubled daughter but have made an assessment that she will be coming home despite the fact I am powerless to keep all three of us safe. The social worker hardly gets in touch and when she does it's via text. I really don't know what to do
Smiglet - 30-Apr-18 @ 7:00 PM
My daughterleft me her 14 month old 10 years ago never cameback doesn't care about her or to visit her I have had her ever since what legallyrights do I have My granddaughter isnowgoing to be 11 years old
Tahle - 22-Mar-18 @ 3:36 AM
My son was at school and got sick and the school tried contacting me and my ex-husband and we were both either in meetings or in class and it was 2 or 3 hours before we could call the school back. The principal threatened us that it was child abandonment and that she was going to call DHS if we didn't come and pick him up right away. Is she right? We live in Oregon County School
Mom3 - 14-Mar-18 @ 11:21 PM
Yamyam - Your Question:
I was accused of child abandonment how do I prove that I did not abandon my children, I went yo work before the baby sitter reached my home she was 2 minutes away but wanted to get a bread before reaching my home

Our Response:
You haven't said how old your children were? What has the baby sitter said? Sorry there's not enough information for us to comment really.
LawAndParents - 13-Feb-18 @ 3:36 PM
I was accused of child abandonment how do I prove that I did not abandon my children, I went yo work before the baby sitter reached my home she was 2 minutes away but wanted to get a bread before reaching my home
Yamyam - 12-Feb-18 @ 5:57 PM
Lugia - Your Question:
I left my 10 year old with a close friend of mine while I try to clear my head and get my place in order social brought an abandonment order on me what can I do

Our Response:
It might be worth trying to get some individual advice from an organisation like Family Lives. Their helpline is at FamilyLives.org.uk
LawAndParents - 12-Feb-18 @ 1:55 PM
Kala - Your Question:
As my previous question of partners child left for 4/5 weeks. My partner has decided to take his boy back to his mother, we are not seeming to help the situation ! The mother will not talk on the phone to the boy and he is very distressed ! I'm hoping this will bring the situation to a head. We have been into school but have Been offered no help they are not willing to open up a meeting between mother and my partner ! This situation is awful for the boy and he is very distressed I have contacted social services in rochdale but they have offered nothing but a phone number ! I'm afraid she will actually say to the boy that she doesn't want him ! I think he will end up doing something silly !

Our Response:
Would it be easier to simply provide a loving, supportive home with you for the time being. Assure him that you will help to resolve the problem and offer help to repair the relationship with the mother in any way you can.Try Citizens' Advice for local organisations that can mediate or help with situations like that. We're sorry we can't offer any more concrete advice than this. Please do let us know how you get on. If any readers have experienced this please do post here.
LawAndParents - 12-Feb-18 @ 10:23 AM
I left my 10 year old with a close friend of mine while i try to clear my head and get my place in order social brought an abandonment order on me what can i do
Lugia - 9-Feb-18 @ 10:08 PM
As my previous question of partners child left for 4/5 weeks. My partner has decided to take his boy back to his mother, we are not seeming to help the situation ! The mother will not talk on the phone to the boy and he is very distressed ! I'm hoping this will bring the situation to a head. We have been into school but have Been offered no help they are not willing to open up a meeting between mother and my partner ! This situation is awful for the boy and he is very distressed I have contacted social services in rochdale but they have offered nothing but a phone number ! I'm afraid she will actually say to the boy that she doesn't want him ! I think he will end up doing something silly !
Kala - 9-Feb-18 @ 12:50 PM
Kala - Your Question:
My partners boy was dropped off 4 weeks ago all we have gotten from the mother is abusive text ! The child is in bits he and my partner have had little or no contact for the last 14 years he is 15 now, mother and son are not communicating well and she is playing mind games with him , and it's just making the boy withdrawn and very sad, I'm concerned for his mental health ! I have contacted social services and all they did was give me a phone number. his mother will not go to mediation! Can I force the issue, can I take the boy back to his mum ? In the hope that it will make them talk !

Our Response:
Is he at school? Can you talk to welfare staff/tutor etc? They often know of resources that are available in situations like this. 14 year old boys can be difficult to cope with as a mother/single parent and he may not realise the impact of his behaviour etc.
LawAndParents - 7-Feb-18 @ 3:26 PM
My partners boy was dropped off 4 weeks ago all we have gotten from the mother is abusive text ! The child is in bits he and my partner have had little or no contact for the last 14 years he is 15 now, mother and son are not communicating well and she is playing mind games with him , and it's just making the boy withdrawn and very sad, I'm concerned for his mental health ! I have contacted social services and all they did was give me a phone number ... his mother will not go to mediation! Can I force the issue, can I take the boy back to his mum ? In the hope that it will make them talk !
Kala - 7-Feb-18 @ 7:51 AM
Kimberley - Your Question:
My daughter’s father hasn’t seen her for 3 years. The last conversation I had with him was him telling me he didn’t want to see her anymore. I haven’t spoken to him since. He doesn’t pay maintenance (which I don’t want). He is on her birth certificate as her father. Is there a point when he loses his rights? She has his surname, I would like to chnage it back to mine but I know if I asked he would say no out of spite and to be difficult. Is there a point when he no longer has rights and I can do this without his permission? Thanks

Our Response:
No, you would have to apply to the courts and tell them that he has no contact/you don't know his whereabouts etc.
LawAndParents - 5-Feb-18 @ 2:13 PM
My daughter’s father hasn’t seen her for 3 years. The last conversation I had with him was him telling me he didn’t want to see her anymore. I haven’t spoken to him since. He doesn’t pay maintenance (which I don’t want). He is on her birth certificate as her father. Is there a point when he loses his rights? She has his surname, I would like to chnage it back to mine but I know if I asked he would say no out of spite and to be difficult. Is there a point when he no longer has rights and I can do this without his permission? Thanks
Kimberley - 2-Feb-18 @ 8:46 PM
9 years ago my ex left to go on holiday for a week said bye to the children aged 12,4,3 and said he see them the following week, however he never did, he moved abroad and hasn’t seen the kids since, he made his brother power of attorney over our joint house,after a lot of hassle his sister had him sign a form to say that he is only entitled to X amount out of house and no more,he has never paid a penny towards house or children. For the past 9 years I have saved and tried buying him out, also put house on market got a buyer and the brother argued and messed about till the buyer lost interest, i then took on a 2nd job so I could go back to Bank and be allowed to take mortgage on by myself, I got it last March and since then they have said their going to sign it over but haven’t and have now stopped answering calls/letters from the conveyers, phoned a few solicitors with no good garentee of outcome in kids favour, I’m thinking about taking the brother to small claims court and sueing him for blocking every attempt to move on, any advice would be appreciated. Thanks
Sara - 22-Jan-18 @ 2:49 PM
Hi, I’m Stefan and I’m 16 atm, I used to live in Manchester UK, I’ve lived there for about 4years now, last Friday my mum told me I was goin to (x country) for a week bc I’m supposed to sign some papers because I’m originally from (x country) So obviously I answered with a sure , So she told me I was goin next day to a different country for a week, now I’m here in (x country) my auntie picked me up from the airport when I arrived , now my auntie is leaving , and my mum said she ain’t gonna bring me back , apparently I can’t leave my original country without my mum signing some documents to allow me to leave the country because I’m under 18, so now I see myself in a completely different country where I barely understand the language , without money ,or anything , I’m supposed to attend school as usual tomorrow in England , I’m in yr 11 on my last year with 4 months till my GCSEs and my mums abandoned me here, she said there are a lot of orphans out there and homeless people out there so I should manage too , she was the only parent I had bc my dad died when I was 3 months old , so now my life’s ruined , I lost all my studies , I lost my home , I lost my mum , I’ve lost everything and I can’t even be home
Stefan - 21-Jan-18 @ 11:01 PM
Kiyara - Your Question:
I’m 31 years old and my husband whom now I am separated to is 35 years old , this is kind of a different view than I think others have stated , but I have 2 daughters 2-3 years old whom are in my full care and I would cross mountains for them both , their father cheated with many woman and I asked for a divorce and he moved out on the agreement that he would keep his children at the top of his priorities , and yet he comes and goes as he likes mentally hurting his daughters but his 3 year old has been mostly effected , last time he seen then he spent 3 different weekends with one daughter or the other never together and in a span of 6 months only that’s 6 visits in 6 months , my daughter asks for her dad all the time and her routine and sleep patterns become in organized when her dad does come and then leaves for a few months again , he’s not really working he’s on disability but is fully capable of bth mentally and physically maintaining a relationship with his kids , and yet he would rather the freedom without them , which is not fair to them it hurts them and in that it hurts me to see them be hurt by him emotionally , do they have any laws that can bring my daughters justice , it is child abandonment , even though I have them he should not be allowed to just neglect his duty and responsibilities as a father , we were married and not young either , I was 28 he was 32 he knew kids would be in the marriage at a point if I could be charged with it , even though I could never leave their side then why can’t he even though I am fully taking care of them , I’m only asking because it breaks my heart to see my daughter even try to call her dad on the phone and he ignores every time.

Our Response:
No unfortunately there is not much that can be done here unless you can get someone else to talk to him and get him to see the effect his behaviour is having on his children.
LawAndParents - 15-Jan-18 @ 2:57 PM
I’m 31 years old and my husband whom now I am separated to is 35 years old , this is kind of a different view than I think others have stated , but I have 2 daughters 2-3 years old whom are in my full care and I would cross mountains for them both , their father cheated with many woman and I asked for a divorce and he moved out on the agreement that he would keep his children at the top of his priorities , and yet he comes and goes as he likes mentally hurting his daughters but his 3 year old has been mostly effected , last time he seen then he spent 3 different weekends with one daughter or the other never together and in a span of 6 months only that’s 6 visits in 6 months , my daughter asks for her dad all the time and her routine and sleep patterns become in organized when her dad does come and then leaves for a few months again , he’s not really working he’s on disability but is fully capable of bth mentally and physically maintaining a relationship with his kids , and yet he would rather the freedom without them , which is not fair to them it hurts them and in that it hurts me to see them be hurt by him emotionally , do they have any laws that can bring my daughters justice , it is child abandonment , even though I have them he should not be allowed to just neglect his duty and responsibilities as a father , we were married and not young either , I was 28 he was 32 he knew kids would be in the marriage at a point if I could be charged with it , even though I could never leave their side then why can’t he even though I am fully taking care of them , I’m only asking because it breaks my heart to see my daughter even try to call her dad on the phone and he ignores every time .
Kiyara - 12-Jan-18 @ 5:20 PM
Hi ned so advise my bother went to see is kids what happen was I ex walk out on them when the were baby's so the family help he when to court and got a residence order anywhere he got by with her coz of the kids but they move away however she start going out all time roll in at 5am and stop out so he move back to mum he didn't take the kids coz they were happy in school etc (he put the kids first ) however he finds out she sill out all time and leve the with a man ( he not rite in the head big kid come to mine) she as had her old kid taken off her she live on the next road on from my mum house she lied to the court now say he can see them only on a Sundayat this place noing he work on them day he not had a job for over 17 year but he got a job for is kids were dose he sand it's killing him not see them and us as family all they family on both Sadi live 2 hours way
Matt - 6-Jan-18 @ 10:10 AM
Joe - Your Question:
Hi there. We have had our children taken off from us by our friend who has now taken the law into her hands. Basically what happened was we had been going through a rough patch in our marriage and she thought that it was a good Idea to take the kids while we were sorting our life's out. So she has now involved the Social Services and also set up child protection meeting and in additional to that she's not letting us see our children. I need advice on what to do as now we are resolved but she's not letting the kids talk or see us. We have not received any non contact letters from the courts or anything. Please advise. Many thanks.

Our Response:
Contact social services yourself, explain what the issue is and tell them you want your children living back with you. If they are already involved, they should be able to tell you what happens next.
LawAndParents - 5-Jan-18 @ 12:02 PM
Hi there. We have had our children taken off from us by our friend who has now taken the law into her hands. Basically what happened was we had been going through a rough patch in our marriage and she thought that it was a good Idea to take the kids while we were sorting our life's out. So she has now involved the Social Services and also set up child protection meeting and in additional to that she's not letting us see our children. I need advice on what to do as now we are resolved but she's not letting the kids talk or see us. We have not received any non contact letters from the courts or anything. Please advise. Many thanks.
Joe - 2-Jan-18 @ 10:47 PM
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