How to Prove Child Abandonment

Divorce is often a taxing process, especially when you have children to consider, and in some cases, the children are central to the divorce. There are many grounds for filing for divorce; one is child abandonment. Child abandonment refers to when a parent or someone with a child in their care, like a guardian, deserts their child with no regard for their safety, welfare, or physical health, with the intention being to abandon them completely. In some cases, abandonment of a child also refers to instances when a parent or guardian fails to provide necessities like medical care, shelter, clothing, and food to a child in their care.

Child Abandonment Under Texas Law

Under Texas law, a parent or guardian charged with child abandonment may receive severe penalties. 

The state’s Family Code stipulates several acts that are considered neglect. These include allowing a child to be exposed to the risk of physical or mental harm and allowing a child to be in an unreasonably safe situation that may result in sexual contact, harm, or bodily injury.

Failing to provide basic necessities and sufficient medical care to a child is also considered neglect under Texas law.

Under the state’s Penal Code, an individual found to have abandoned the child but intended to return to them is typically issued a state jail felony offense. If the accused had no intention of returning to the child, this is treated as a third-degree felony.

However, if they left the child in a situation that any reasonable individual would see presented an impending risk of bodily injury or death, the offense is treated as a second-degree felony.

Usually, penalties depend on the circumstances of the offense but can vary from fines of $10,000 up to 15 or more years of incarceration.

How Can a Parent Prove Child Abandonment?

To prove that the other parent has, in fact, abandoned the child, the concerned party has to demonstrate that the accused failed to participate in their child’s life for an extended time. This includes no visits and no calls for six months or more. 

In addition to this, the plaintiff will need to submit a testimony to the court showing the lack of contact between the parent and the child for a period of time. 

The burden of proof will then lie with the other parent to prove that they have communicated with the child. If a parent is present in their child’s life and has evidence to prove so, the likelihood that their parental rights will be terminated is low.

If the accused knowingly and voluntarily abandoned the child’s mother during pregnancy or for a period after birth, this is also deemed as child abandonment.

How Can One Terminate Parent Rights Successfully?

If a parent believes that the child’s other parent poses an emotional or physical danger to the child, they may seek sole custody. This will limit visitation and access to the child as long as the child’s best interests are served.

If the court finds that the accused is guilty of abandonment of a child, then the plaintiff has the grounds to file for termination of the other party’s parental rights.

Proving that the accused has been convicted of sexual assault or murder of the other parent may also be grounds for termination. 

Giving birth to a child that was addicted to a controlled substance or alcohol is also grounds for parental rights termination.

In addition to this, proving that the accused is under community supervision for or has been convicted of being criminally responsible for a child’s serious injury or death is also grounds for termination of parental rights.

Furthermore, the concerned party can also successfully terminate the accused person’s rights if there is evidence proving that the accused used a controlled substance in a manner that endangered the safety or health of a child and failed to abide by or complete a court-ordered treatment program.

It should be noted that during termination proceedings, the court considers the rights of both the father and mother of the child. You should always consult with an experienced child custody attorney before deciding whether to terminate parental rights.

What Happens if Parental Rights Cannot Be Terminated?

If the defendant agrees to terminate their parental rights, the court will issue an order terminating their rights. This will bar the accused from claiming custody or visiting the child. However, if the defendant does not agree to terminate their parental rights, they will remain with the right to claim custody and visit with their child. This will result in shared custody, commonly referred to as joint custody in Texas. 

Under such an agreement, the judge or both parents decide which duties and rights each party will be assigned and the responsibilities they’ll be required to fulfill. These parental duties and rights have been stipulated in the Texas Family Code. They include the right to make decisions about the child’s medical care, education, where the child will live, and religious affiliations. 

Given that these duties and rights may be subject to negotiation during a child custody dispute, they are best handled by an experienced lawyer who can help you fight for the rights you want.

Zarka Law has an experienced team of attorneys specializing in divorce and other aspects of family law. Contact us today if you would like to institute or respond to abandonment of a child charges. We are ready to help!

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