Child Abandonment in Arizona

Child Abandonment in Arizona

When people hear “child abandonment,” they think of a baby being left on police station steps, or, recently, a baby being left in a grocery store shopping cart.  However, those “child abandonments” are somewhat rare. Usually, children are abandoned in convoluted and nasty domestic circumstances. The alcoholic that leaves her children with friends for months and months with no contact; the father that goes out of state with his new girlfriend that just up and leaves; the woman that is going to be in prison for seven to ten years and neglects to communicate with her children – these are more typical child abandonment situations.

“Abandonment” is defined as the failing of a parent to supply reasonable support and to regularly keep in contact with the child, including offering typical supervision. Abandonment comprises of a judicial discovery that a parent has made only miniscule efforts to support and communicate with the child. Failing to maintain a typical parental relationship with the child devoid of just cause for a length of six months establishes prima facie proof of abandonment.

Primarily, in accordance with Arizona law, each parent has a responsibility to financially support their children. The parent not providing financial support is going to have a major strike against them in an abandonment assessment. Parents also need to maintain routine contact with the children. For the parent that resides in a different state or country or for the parent that is imprisoned, meaning visitations, phone calls, letters and presents. The parent needs to make a acceptable effort to keep a relationship with their child.

There is no “intent” component to abandonment.  Meaning it doesn’t matter if the parent did not intentionally abandon their child.  The actuality that time got away from the parent, that they just fell out of contact with the child is means nothing. It is the actions of the parent that counts, not meaning well.

Child Abandonment and Child Neglect are Criminal Offenses

Neglect of a child and child abandonment usually go hand in hand. The definition comprises of the failure of providing clothing, food, a place to live or medical care. It will also comprise of allowing children to be around noxious, volatile substances or the manufacturing of drugs.  Children that get exposed to illegal drugs, and physically and/or sexually abused children are also thought of as neglected. Children born with illegal drugs in their system satisfy the meaning of a neglected and abused child.

Parents that neglect or abandon their children might subjected to criminal prosecution.  The minimal charge under is going to be for a class one misdemeanor.  The potential penalties when convicted are: up to six months in prison, three years’ probation and a $2,500 fine.

When the DA’s Office thinks it is warranted, they can prosecute under A.R.S. § 13-2623, in which is a felony statute. A parent may be prosecuted for “carelessly” abandoning or neglecting their child. When convicted of this class 4 felony, the parent is going to serve at least a prison term of 1 year. When the parent “senselessly” abandons or neglects their child, they might be prosecuted through the same statute for a class 3 felony with at least a prison term of 2 years.   When the jury determines that the parent “deliberately” abandoned or neglected the child, the penalty for this class 2 felony is going to be at least 4 years in prison.

Child Abandonment and/or Neglect Could Result in the Dissolution of Parental Rights

When the Arizona Department of Economic Security, through CPS, finds that the parent has abandoned the child or severely neglected the child, the agency has the legal responsibility to pursue action to dissolve parental rights of their child. How the agency manages the case is going to depend on the circumstances. The state understands the fundamental right of a parent to parent their child. Because of this, CPS is going to attempt to rehabilitate the parent and keep the family as a whole if possible. For instance: When one of the parents has a drug or alcohol problem, the agency is going to provide rehabilitation services and visitation with the child with the hope the parent can complete rehabilitation, gets gainfully employed, and becomes able to provide a consistent environment for the child.

At the same time, there are cases where reunification of the family is neither possible nor wanted. In those cases, the state is going to seek a severance action. If a severance action is started, the parent has a right to an attorney. The attorney is going to represent the parent in court. The state needs to demonstrate its case for severance by concise and conclusive evidence. If the court dissolves the parent’s rights, the parent has a right to appeal their decision.

Through appeal, the court examines the parent’s rights and their actions and offsets the parent’s interests with the child best interest.


  1. Family and children child abuse & neglect child abandonment. (n.d.). Retrieved May 04, 2021, from

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