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What is considered child abandonment and how long must custodial parent be gone before it is considered child abandonment

Morristown, TN |

custodial parent left with new boyfriend in his semi. Kids are not in school. Custodial parent been gone two weeks.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Two weeks is not enough to constitute 'Abandonment.' Here's the Tennessee statute that answers your question:

    36-1-102. Part definitions.

    As used in this part, unless the context otherwise requires:

    (1) (A) For purposes of terminating the parental or guardian rights of parent(s) or guardian(s) of a child to that child in order to make that child available for adoption, �abandonment� means that:

    (i) For a period of four (4) consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of a proceeding or pleading to terminate the parental rights of the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the child who is the subject of the petition for termination of parental rights or adoption, that the parent(s) or guardian(s) either have willfully failed to visit or have willfully failed to support or have willfully failed to make reasonable payments toward the support of the child;

    (ii) The child has been removed from the home of the parent(s) or guardian(s) as the result of a petition filed in the juvenile court in which the child was found to be a dependent and neglected child, as defined in § 37-1-102, and the child was placed in the custody of the department or a licensed child-placing agency, that the juvenile court found, or the court where the termination of parental rights petition is filed finds, that the department or a licensed child-placing agency made reasonable efforts to prevent removal of the child or that the circumstances of the child's situation prevented reasonable efforts from being made prior to the child's removal; and for a period of four (4) months following the removal, the department or agency has made reasonable efforts to assist the parent(s) or guardian(s) to establish a suitable home for the child, but that the parent(s) or guardian(s) have made no reasonable efforts to provide a suitable home and have demonstrated a lack of concern for the child to such a degree that it appears unlikely that they will be able to provide a suitable home for the child at an early date. The efforts of the department or agency to assist a parent or guardian in establishing a suitable home for the child may be found to be reasonable if such efforts exceed the efforts of the parent or guardian toward the same goal, when the parent or guardian is aware that the child is in the custody of the department;

    (iii) A biological or legal father has either willfully failed to visit or willfully failed to make reasonable payments toward the support of the child's mother during the four (4) months immediately preceding the birth of the child; provided, that in no instance shall a final order terminating the parental rights of a parent as determined pursuant to this subdivision (1)(A)(iii) be entered until at least thirty (30) days have elapsed since the date of the child's birth;

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  2. I don't believe abandonment is the issue in this case. What would be relevant is, "who has the children?" The fact that the Mother left the children without making provisions for how long she would be gone or other arrangements, may give rise to a change of custody or even emergency dependency and neglect out of juvenile court.

    You should consult with local counsel and explore your options based upon the facts of your case. As with all family law cases, the facts are specific to your case and it is difficult to give specific answers on a forum like this one.

    Best wishes.

    If you find this answer helpful, please let other readers know by marking the answer as "helpful". No discussion on this board is intended to replace the advice or consultation when all facts are disclosed and pleadings reviewed. No attorney client relationship is established by initiating this discussion with the attorney. For further discussion, I can be contacted by phone at 615-452-4423 or my email at Patti@pattibgarner.com. Most consultations are free. My office is located in Gallatin, TN and I am licensed to practice in the state of Tennessee.


  3. I agree that the time period for abandonment as to whether a parent's rights can be terminated is four months. Have the parents indicated when they are coming back? A parent can leave their children with someone while they go out of town, but you obviously have concern as to whether the parents are coming back at all. Whoever has the children can file for temporary custody in the juvenile court based on the situation or if not willing to take custody of them, contact the Department of Children's Services.