Parental Abandonment And Parental Rights
After a marriage or other romantic relationship fails between two people who have children together, it can sometimes mean that one of the parents leave the children as well as the spouse or partner. The parent who stays often carries on raising the child alone, and providing for the child as needed. This parent would understandably be surprised or upset if the parent who left and abandoned a child comes back years later and tries to seek time sharing or parental responsibility with the children.
Whether a parent can legally gain access to a child after a period of not communicating with or attempting to see the child depends on the circumstances surrounding the parent’s absence. The law defines abandonment as when a parent fails to make a significant contribution to the child’s care and maintenance or fails to establish or maintain a substantial and positive relationship with the child. While abandonment over a number of years can be more easily proven, a parent can also be found to have abandoned a child after months of no communication or support.
If the parent legally abandoned the child with no reasonable explanation, the parent may have every chance of having parental responsibility or time sharing with the child. The law can consider a parent’s prison term as evidence in favor of a finding that the parent has abandoned the child, especially if the parent is often in prison.
Occasional phone calls or cards to the child during long periods of no communication would not mean the parent has not abandoned the child. It is not necessarily the contact with the child that is important but rather the nature of the communication, and whether it fosters a substantial and positive relationship with the child. This is something the occasional birthday and Christmas card is not likely to do if the parent does not otherwise communicate with the child.
A court can enter an order finding the child abandoned by a parent after the parent has been absent from the child’s life for a period of time. This determination would not really change anything for the parent who is taking care of the child because that parent already has majority parental responsibility and there is no order in place granting the other parent visitation time. However, an order recognizing abandonment can be helpful in terminating the parental rights of the abandoning parent if the parent with the child remarries and that parent’s spouse wants to adopt the child.
A parent will not likely have his parental rights terminated if his failure to establish a substantial and positive relationship with the children is due to another person’s interference and efforts to alienate the children from that parent.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
Handling child related issues without an attorney can be difficult. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney before making agreements and settling on a plan that will affect your children for a long time. Contact our experienced child custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White in Boca Raton, Florida, to discuss how to handle post-divorce or post-separation child related issues.