Even in the most amicable situations, divorce can be difficult for the children. When one parent severs the relationship with their child financially, emotionally, or physically, it is even more painful. Extreme cases of parental desertion are sometimes considered abandonment under the law. Most importantly, parental abandonment changes the way child custody matters are resolved.
From state to state, the legal definition of parental abandonment varies. For certain states, a parent’s willful physical or financial desertion of the children for a year or more can constitute as abandonment. For other states, a parent must be gone even longer for the courts to rule it as abandonment.
Constructive and Physical Abandonment and Child Custody
There are two different types of abandonment. Constructive abandonment happens when a parent still living in the home withholds affection and economic support from their spouse and children. Physical abandonment happens when a parent leaves the home and stops providing emotional and financial support over the course of days, weeks, or months.
When one parent physically leaves their spouse and children, a de facto custody situation is created, giving the remaining parent custody of the kids. This happens without a court intervention. The parent with de facto custody is free to pursue a divorce and sole legal and physical custody of the children. Parental abandonment makes it very difficult for the departed parent to regain custody in the future. Parents who refuse to emotionally, physically, and financially support their children commit constructive abandonment. A judge considers this when deciding child custody arrangements. Parents who neglect their responsibilities for days or weeks at a time have a significant disadvantage when it comes to child custody.
Termination of Parental Rights
Parents on the receiving end of constructive or physical abandonment often decide to pursue termination of the other parent’s rights. Because termination of parental rights is permanent, this should be discussed with a trusted divorce lawyer. Child abuse, neglect, and refusal to parent may be grounds for termination.
Helping Children Cope with Abandonment
Supporting children who have lost a parent to abandonment is crucial to their emotional health. Counter their feelings of rejection and doubt with positive reinforcement. Encourage children to share their feelings, no matter how painful they may be. Give them space to process their anger and sadness. Every child of divorce can benefit from talking to a family therapist who can assure them that their feelings are normal and healthy.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Fight for Children Affected by Parental Abandonment
When one parent abandons their duties as a partner and parent, the family they leave behind is left to pick up the pieces. Legal protection is especially important in these situations. To schedule your free consultation with a Towson child custody lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, call 443-589-0150 or submit an online inquiry today. Our offices are located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, and we proudly serve clients throughout the state.