Georgia Reckless Abandonment Lawyers

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 What is Child Abandonment?

Child abandonment is a criminal offense which may occur in numerous different ways. Child abandonment may occur when a parent or legal guardian deserts a child.

Child abandonment may also occur when a parent or legal guardian shows a total disregard for the child’s health, safety, and welfare. If a child’s parent or guardian fails to provide them with basic care for a child who is living with them, it is considered child abandonment.

What are Child Abandonment Laws?

Child abandonment is considered a criminal offense in the majority of jurisdictions. Laws governing child abandonment vary by state.

In general, child abandonment can be established when a parent or a legal guardian of a child chooses not to have contact with the child and refuses to financially or emotionally support the child. This situation may be aggravated if the child is left to fend for themselves without having any adult supervision or guidance.

What are some Examples of Child Abandonment?

Examples of child abandonment may include:

  • Leaving a child home alone for an extended period of time which can put the child in substantial risk of harm;
  • Leaving a child with a caregiver for a prolonged period of time without providing any communication or financial support;
  • Failing to make efforts over an extended period of time to meet with the child during scheduled visitation times in situations that involve visitation issues; or
  • Abandoning an infant or a child on a doorstep, in a dumpster, or in some other location.
  • Certain states have safe haven laws which allow a parent to safely give up their child, typically a newborn child, at:
    • a hospital;
    • a fire station; or
    • another designated safe location.

If a child is left by themselves, the age of that child is taken into consideration. In the majority of states, if a child is younger than 13 years of age, child abandonment laws may apply. In addition, if the child is left with a caregiver, the minimum age of that caregiver must also be taken into consideration.

The majority of states consider a responsible caregiver to be over the age of 14. If the caregiver is not, child abandonment laws may apply.

What are the Consequences of Child Abandonment?

Child abandonment is classified in most states as a misdemeanor. In some states, however, it may be classified as a felony.

Depending on the jurisdiction, the consequences of child abandonment may be vastly different. The penalties may range from monetary criminal fines to incarceration.

Another potential consequence of child abandonment is the loss of parental rights, which applies in most states. The termination of parental rights occurs when a court determines that a parent is unfit.

It may also occur if the environment that the child is being raised in is dangerous for the child. If both of the child’s parents lose their parental rights, the child may become a ward of the state or may be placed with a foster family.

In many situations, child abandonment cases also involve child abuse and neglect issues. The majority of states have rules in place that require specific individuals to report child abuse, child neglect, and in some instances, child abandonment cases to law enforcement.

Mandatory reporting typically applies to:

  • Teachers;
  • School counselors;
  • Doctors;
  • Nurses; and
  • Other health care officials.

How is Child Abandonment Defined in Georgia?

According to Georgia law, when a parent or legal guardian does not furnish sufficient food, clothing, or shelter for the needs of a minor child for a consecutive 30-day period, leaving them in a dependent condition, they have committed child abandonment. This is distinct from reckless abandonment.

Reckless abandonment occurs when a parent, legal guardian, or other individual supervising the welfare of a child under the age of one year willfully and voluntarily physically abandons the child with the intent to several all parental and custodial duties, leaving the child in such a condition that results in the child’s death.

Can a Babysitter be Charged with Reckless Abandonment in Georgia?

Yes, a babysitter may be charged with reckless abandonment in Georgia. A babysitter is an individual who is placed in charge of caring for a child.

Any individual, including a babysitter or a nanny, who is supervising the care or welfare of a child under the age of one year may be charged with reckless abandonment.

How Does Reckless Abandonment Occur?

As noted above, in order to recklessly abandon a child, an individual who has immediate charge or custody of the child, voluntarily or willfully physically abandons the child. The individual must have the intent to completely terminate all custodial or parental responsibilities.

By renouncing these responsibilities, the individual leaves the child in a condition where they die as a result.

What is Reckless Endangerment?

Reckless endangerment is a criminal offense that occurs when an individual shows an indifference or disregard for human life. This disregard creates a substantial risk of harm to another individual.

The substantial risk of harm may range from serious bodily injury to death to an individual or a group of individuals. Similar to reckless abandonment, reckless endangerment of a child involves subjecting a child to circumstances that place them at substantial risk of harm.

What is the Penalty for Reckless Abandonment in Georgia?

In Georgia, abandoning a child under one year of age is a felony. A conviction for this crime may result in 10 to 25 years incarceration.

Are there any Defenses to Child Abandonment?

Every case of child abandonment must be reviewed by a court on an individual basis in order to determine if a valid defense is available. One exception to the child abandonment rule which is recognized by many states is the safe haven rule.

The safe haven rule applies when a newborn child is left with first responders, which may include emergency room workers, paramedics, and firefighters. The parent or parents who are intending to give up their baby and place it in the care of first responders may not be prosecuted under child abandonment laws.

There are some situations where a parent leaves their child home alone for a short period of time. The court will consider several factors when determining if child abandonment applies, including:

  • The age of the child;
  • The circumstances of the family;
  • The amount of time the child was left alone; and
  • Whether the child was in danger.

If a parent claims that a child’s father abandoned their child but the father was not aware the child existed, it may provide a valid defense. The priority of the court is to determine what is in the best interests of the child.

Should I Contact a Lawyer to Help Me?

If there is an emergency situation where a child may be in imminent danger, authorities should be notified as soon as possible to assist the child. If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to child abandonment, it is important to consult with a Georgia criminal lawyer for assistance.

If you have been charged with reckless abandonment, it is important to have the assistance of an attorney, as a felony conviction may affect many areas of your life. Your lawyer can advise you regarding Georgia law and determine whether there are any defenses available in your case.

In addition, your attorney will represent you when you are required to appear in court.

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