Are You A Parent Or Noncustodial Parent Dealing With Child Abandonment Laws In California?

Child Abandonment Laws In California FAQ

If you are the parent or noncustodial parent of a child who has been abandoned by either his or her other parent (or legal parents), our attorneys may be able to help you terminate the parental rights of the legal parent(s) of your child. The child abandonment laws in California provide certain conditions under which the legal rights of a parent who has abandoned his or her child can be terminated. Below, we provide you with answers to four of the most commonly asked questions asked by parents and noncustodial parents who are dealing with child abandonment. However, we encourage you to give us a call, so we can answer your questions based on the specific facts of your case.

1. If a court rules that the other parent has abandoned my child, will I be able to pursue criminal charges against him or her?

It depends. For purposes of termination of parental rights in family law cases, a person who is ruled to have abandoned their child under California Family Code Section 7822 usually will not automatically be charged criminally. However, the other parent may be criminally charged if he or she has been ordered to financially support your child, through child support or other means, and he or she fails to do so. In this situation, you would need to file a motion to hold the other parent in contempt, for violating a court order.

While there is a California crime entitled “Child Abandonment” (California Penal Code Section 270), this crime should not be confused with family law child abandonment.  By not communicating with your child for an extended period of time, the other parent is not committing a crime.

The differences between family law child abandonment and criminal child abandonment can be very confusing. If you are seeking to terminate the parental rights of the other parent of your child, you should consult with an experienced child abandonment attorney to advise you of the steps that you can take in your child abandonment case.

2. I recently re-married and would like my spouse to be the legal parent of my child. Will I be able to terminate the parental rights of the other parent of my child if my spouse attempts to adopt my child?

Noncustodial parents have rights in California. Speak to us for help on Child Abandonment Laws in California.

Let Wallin & Klarich Help You With Your Child Abandonment Case.

It depends. Terminating the parental rights of a biological parent for purposes of step-parent can be very complex. Your spouse will not be able to adopt your child unless the other biological parent either consents or you are able to terminate his or her parental rights. A court will not terminate the parental rights of the other biological parent merely because you want your spouse to adopt your child. You must show the court proper justification for why the parental rights of the other parent should be terminated. These justifications include:

  • The other biological parent has not exercised their parental rights for a significant period of time, such as exercising visitation rights or providing support;
  • Under California Family Code Section 7822, the other biological parent has abandoned your child. Under the child abandonment laws in California, a person has abandoned a child for purposes of step-parent adoption when:


    1. The other biological parent has left your child with you for over a year, without any communication with the child; OR
    2. The other biological parent left your child with another person for over a six-month period, without any communication with the child.


  • The other biological parent is unfit to be the legal parent of your child. The court will use the best interest standard to evaluate whether your spouse should be the legal parent over the other biological parent.


While you can use child abandonment as a method for terminating parental rights for step-parent adoption, you cannot merely terminate the other biological parent’s rights because you want your spouse to become the other legal parent.

3. The other parent of my child does not have any interest in being the legal parent of my child. Will I still have to go through the court process to terminate his or her parental rights?

Under child abandonment laws in California, While you may not have to litigate your child abandonment case, you will have to go through the court process to terminate the other parent’s parental rights. Under the If you do not file a petition with a family law court to terminate the parental rights of the other parent, then the other parent will continue to have a right to establish custody and visitation orders with regards to your child.

However, if the other parent agrees to terminate his or her parental rights, the process will be more cost effective and efficient. You will not have to fight a long court battle against the other parent. You will be able to file your agreement with the family law court and the agreement will become the court order. At that point, the parental rights of the other parent will be terminated.

It is important to note that courts take termination of parental rights very seriously and make every effort to ensure that both biological parents’ rights are protected. If you and the other parent come to an agreement to terminate his or her parental rights, it is important that you consult with an experienced family law attorney to review your agreement. Wallin & Klarich’s child custody attorneys will be able to ensure that your agreement is valid and that there are no procedural problems with the other parent terminating his or her parental rights.

4. Is it important to hire an experienced child abandonment attorney to help me if I wish to help with my child abandonment case?

If you are a parent trying to terminate the parental rights of the other parent, you need the help of an attorney from Wallin & Klarich experienced in child abandonment laws in California. At Wallin & Klarich, our child custody attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully helping clients in their child abandonment cases. Our attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to answer any questions you have regarding your case.

Our offices are conveniently located in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, Torrance, West Covina, Sherman Oaks, Victorville, San Bernardino, and Ventura. Call us today at (888) 749-7428. We will be there when you call.

California Penal Code 270
California Family Code Sections 7820-7827

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