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Child Abandonment in Illinois

 Posted on May 09, 2017 in Child Custody

Lombard family law attorneyIn most divorce proceedings, parents are encouraged to develop a workable parenting plan that outlines each party’s rights and responsibilities regarding their children. A parenting plan specifies how significant decisions regarding the child’s life will be made as well as a parenting time schedule. Your parenting time—sometimes referred to as physical custody of a child—is more than a right or a privilege; it is a responsibility. If you fail to safeguard your child or you leave them alone for too long during your scheduled parenting time, you will be deemed to have abandoned them, and you could lose your parental rights as a result.

Physical Abandonment

Child abandonment is defined in Illinois as any time that someone having physical custody or control of a child under age 13 “knowingly leaves that child” without supervision, or in the supervision of someone “irresponsible” (or underaged) for 24 hours or more. It implies a negligent or reckless disregard for that child’s safety, and it is a criminal offense in Illinois, carrying a sentence that can vary between probation and three years in prison, plus a $25,000 fine. If the abandonment leads to the child being injured or otherwise harmed, the parent may lose parental rights.

Physical child abandonment cases are not necessarily clear-cut, however. There are multiple factors that a judge must consider in determining whether an abandonment did take place. They include, but are not limited to:

  • The child’s age and maturity level;
  • The location where the child was left, its condition, and degree of safety;
  • Whether or not the child was left with food and other items necessary to maintain their health and safety; and
  • Whether or not the child had any support needs that were out of the ordinary, such as insulin or assistance due to mental disability.

Such an extensive list of factors does show that each situation is able to be assessed differently under the law. A parent who makes a good faith effort to care for their child but cannot supervise him or her due to economic necessity will likely receive more consideration from a court than a parent who simply walks out to meet friends and leaves their minor child alone. A good example of this is a parent who must work during non-school hours to make ends meet.

Non-Criminal Relinquishment

An important caveat to be aware of when contemplating the question of abandonment is that there are rare instances where conduct that might otherwise constitute child abandonment will not be held to be criminal. The most common situation is when a new mother surrenders their child to a hospital, police station, or fire department under the Illinois Safe Haven Act, more formally known as the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.

It is rare that this situation would occur in a divorce context, but not unheard of; if a parent surrenders their child to a hospital, he or she is assumed to be the biological parent surrendering their parental rights. There have been cases where mothers surrendered young babies, assuming that the father would not want to be involved in the child’s life, only to later be proven wrong by fathers tracking down their biological children.

Let Us Help

If you have been wrongly accused of child abandonment or you fear that your child has been abandoned by your co-parent, you have options. Contact an experienced Lombard family law attorney to discuss your situation today. Call A. Traub & Associates at 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation.



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