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Child Abandonment: Texas Laws and Punishments

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Child Abandonment in Texas

Texas laws require parents to perform certain duties for their children. Parents are expected to provide an acceptable standard of care while taking responsibility for the children that they are raising. This includes giving their children a safe place to live while also providing food, attention and taking care of any medical situations.

Any parent who intentionally neglects their duties may be charged with child abandonment. A conviction for this charge can have serious and long lasting consequences. There is a variety of actions and behaviors that can be classified as child abandonment. Taking a close look at these behaviors can help people to have a better understanding of this criminal charge.

What Is Child Abandonment?

According to Section 22.041 of the Texas Penal Code, the crime of abandoning a child is combined with the offense of child endangerment. The law defines abandonment as:

“Leaving a child in any place without providing necessary and reasonable care”

The crime of child abandonment and endangerment includes the following actions:

  • A person who has custody of a child commits abandonment if they leave a child under age 15 in a place where they might be harmed
  • A person commits abandonment or endangerment if they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently engage in actions that may cause a child to be harmed, physically impaired or mentally impaired

For the purposes of prosecution, a person can commit an act of endangerment if they consume or produce methamphetamines or other controlled substances in the presence of a child or if they give these substances to a child.

It should be noted that, in order for a conviction to be reached, the act of abandonment has to take place in a way that could cause the child to come to harm. For example, it is not illegal to drop off a child at football practice and then drive away. Parents have the legal right to leave their children in situations or locations where they may be supervised and cared for.

What Are The Consequences?

Texas takes a tough stance of parents who are convicted of child abandonment or endangerment. There are different degrees of this offense to which defendants may be subjected, depending on the facts of a particular case.

For example, if a custodial parent leaves a child alone in a place where there is an unreasonable risk of harm for the child, they may be convicted of a state jail felony. This can lead to:

  • 180 days or up to two years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Loss of parental or custodial rights

However, the punishment for this action can be upgraded to a second degree felony if:

  • The child is left in a place that may cause serious physical injury or death
  • The child is left in a situation that could lead to physical or mental impairment

Also, a person who intentionally abandons a child but intends to return at a later point to retrieve the child may face a conviction for a state jail felony. However, abandoning a child with no intention to return and retrieve the child can lead to a conviction for a felony of the third degree.

Legal Defenses

It’s not easy being a parent. When things get stressful or difficult, it’s normal for many families to place their children under the temporary supervision of family members or friends. This fact can play an important role in a legal case.

An attorney may be able to advise a defendant who has been charged with child abandonment on the best way to create a defense in court. For example, a lawyer could use evidence and testimony to assert that the defendant did not intentionally, knowingly or recklessly leave their child in a place that might cause them to come to harm. If this defense is successful, the requirements for a conviction might not be met and the charge could be dropped or reduced.


If you or someone you know is being charged with child abandonment, it’s important to retain legal counsel as soon as possible. Attorney Brett A. Podolsky has the experience needed to help you navigate the law and protect your rights. Contact his office today at (713) 227-0087.

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