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Child Abandonment or Neglect Can Result in the Termination of Parental Rights

Child abandonment is a serious offense in the state of Arizona and can lead to a variety of legal consequences. These can include, but aren’t limited to; fines, imprisonment, and the termination of the absent parents’ parental rights by the state. This means that barring very few defenses, it is possible to lose your legal parenting relationship with your child if it has been requested by the custodial parent, and found by the relevant court, that you have abandoned them.

Arizona Revised Statute 8-531 states: “Abandonment” means the failure of a parent to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child, including providing normal supervision. Abandonment includes a judicial finding that a parent has made only minimal efforts to support and communicate with the child. Failure to maintain a normal parental relationship with the child without just cause for a period of six months constitutes prima facie evidence of abandonment.

What does this mean in practice? In general, it means that parents who have gone six months or more without maintaining a parental relationship or contact with their child may have their parental rights terminated by a judge at the request of the custodial parent. A parent who has had their parental rights terminated no longer has any legal relationship with their child. Thus, they have no right to make any decisions relating to the child’s care, upbringing, medical decisions, religious instruction, or any other aspect of the child’s life and well-being.

What constitutes minimal contact with the child will depend on the judge, but in general, only calling or contacting the child once or twice in the period of six months is unlikely to pass muster. The parent should show compelling reasons for the lack of contact, and what steps they have taken to maintain a parental role in the child’s life (e.g., not being in arrears on support, work obligations, attempts to contact the child and play a role in parental decision making, etc.).

It is important to note that parental rights do not terminate automatically at the conclusion of six months of absence. The custodial parent or other normative caregiver must petition the court for the termination of the absent parents’ parental rights. Thus, it is possible for a parent who has been absent for more than six months to regain shared custody of their child, assuming that their parental rights have not been terminated by the court.

If you need help regarding a child abandonment case, our team here are Simon Law Group can help. Contact us today for free a consultation with one of our incredibly experienced attorneys!

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