We receive many phone calls and questions each week regarding the Child Abandonment Laws in Utah. Many parents wish to terminate parental rights of another due to the other parent’s abandonment of the children. In some cases, abandonment may play a substantial role in determining how a custody proceeding or termination case may resolve. This article provides a few general principles and case summaries regarding the abandonment issue in Utah. The information below is presented as general information and may be out of date. Therefore, if you are seeking legal advice specific to your case, please call and speak with an attorney in our office now.
Utah law generally defines abandonment as “conduct on the part of the parent which implies a conscious disregard of the obligations owed by a parent to the child, leading to the destruction of the parent-child relationship.” In re Summers Children v. Wulffenstein, 560 P.2d 331 (1977). The two-part test for determining abandonment is (1) whether the parent’s conduct evidenced a conscious disregard for his parental obligation; and (2) whether that disregard led to the destruction of the parent-child relationship. In re R.A.F. 863 P.2d 1331 (1993). Therefore, if a parents disregards a child and such conduct is destructive to any relationship that existed, there may be a case of abandonment.
Evidence of Abandonment and Grounds for Termination
Under UCA § 78A-6-508, a parents rights may be terminated when although having legal custody of the child, a parent has surrendered physical custody of the child, and for a period of six months following the surrender has not manifested to the child or to the person having physical custody of the child a firm intention to resume physical custody or to make arrangements for the care of the child; has failed to communicate with the child by mail telephone or otherwise for six months; or has failed to show the normal interest of the natural parent, without just cause.
Parent’s Criminal Activity and Abandonment
Parent’s criminal activity and resulting incarceration provides relevant evidence for abandonment. In re A.M., 2005 UT App 229. Incarceration does not excuse failure of parent to contact and provide for child to extent possible. In re M.B., 2005 UT App 532. Thus, if a parent is incarcerated for a long period of time and does not attempt to communicate with the child from jail, there may be grounds for termination of parental rights due to abandonment.
Utah Abandonment Attorney
If you are seeking to terminate a parent’s rights under the abandonment laws in Utah, call and speak with a Utah Abandonment Attorney in our office now. We offer free consultations and can usually tell you right over the phone how strong your case is or whether or not it makes sense to get a lawyer involved. Our team of skilled Family Law Attorneys in Salt Lake City and throughout the state of Utah can help give you the protection and peace of mind you seek in relationship to your children.