Child Abandonment Laws in Arizona: What You Need to Know


The state of Arizona takes the safety and security of its children very seriously. ARS 8-201(1) defines Arizona’s law on abandonment, it also has mandatory child abandonment reporting requirements. The state has created a department solely for the purpose of investigating abandonment complaints. The state of Arizona works very hard to protect every child while also fighting to provide ways for families and children to stay together.

Arizona Child Abandonment Law | ARS 8-201(1)

According to the Arizona Revised Statute Section 8-201(1), abandonment of a child is defined as failure to support or supervise a child with intent to allow the neglect to go on for an indeterminate amount of time.

When is it Considered Abandonment of a Child in Arizona?

If the neglect for the support and supervision of the child continues for a period of six months, then the statute defines this as child abandonment. This neglect for supervision of the child can include deserting the child without thought for the child’s health or safety. In some instances, it can also include the parent’s failure to provide adequate care for a child living under their roof.

Most often, abandonment of a child means a parent has physically abandoned a child and has left the child entirely. However, child abandonment can also include extreme cases of emotional abandonment such as when a parent is a “work-o-holic” or provides zero emotional support to the child over a long period of time. A parent who has made no effort to communicate with his or her child or had zero contact with the child over a long period of time may also be charged with child abandonment.

Legal Ramifications of Child Abandonment

Child Abandonment is a serious offense and therefore carries very serious legal penalties under this statute for parents who abandon their children. The revised statutes sections 13-3619 and 13-3623 provide for abandonment to be classified as anything from a misdemeanor to a class 2 felony.

The criminal conviction level is dependent on several different factors, including risks to the child and whether or not the abandonment was intentional. The parent might be charged with a misdemeanor or felony crime which is serious in and of itself, but penalties for the crime of child abandonment are also quite hefty.

Penalties range from a fine of $2,500 to 6 months served in prison for a misdemeanor and the possibility of up to 12.5 years in prison for a felony conviction.

Child Abandonment Reporting

ARS 13-3620 sets forth mandated reporters as those people who are required to report child abuse or child neglect.  Neglect includes abandonment; therefore, those who are mandated to report child abuse are also mandated to report child abandonment because it falls under neglect. Those who are abandoned reporters under the statute include school personnel, parents, health care professionals, peace officers, stepparents, and guardians.

If the child is at least 14 years of age and does not wish to have parental involvement, there is no requirement to report this as a case of abandonment.

State Department of Compaints

The Arizona Division of Children, Youth and Families and the Department of Child Protective Services must investigate all reports of child abandonment. The Child Services Department has two very important objectives to follow in investigating claims of abandonment.

The top priority for the Child Services Department is the safety of the child. The second priority for the department is to keep the family intact if at all possible. Whenever possible, the Arizona Child Protective Services Department will work to help the family members stay together and will also offer services to help the family provide quality, adequate care for the child.

Child Abandonment by Only One Parent

In some cases, only one parent has abandoned a child. In these instances, it is possible for the parent who is taking care of the child to file a complaint with the state with regard to the parent who has abandoned the child. If the parent who has abandoned the child fits all of the statute’s requirements for abandonment, then the court may find this to be judicial evidence of abandonment. After a judicial finding of abandonment by one parent, the parent who is the caretaker of the child may then file a petition for the termination of parental rights of the parent who has abandoned the child.

Safe Haven Law Exception

One exception to the Child Abandonment law in Arizona is the Safe Haven Law. According to revised statute 13-3623.01, a parent can leave his or her baby until the baby is three days old with an on duty police officer, hospital staff member, emergency medical services provider, fire station, adoption agency, licensed private child welfare agency, or church. Under this law and as long as the conditions are met, the parent cannot be charged with child abandonment.

Impact of Child Abandonment

Abandoned children, unfortunately, suffer serious consequences as a result of their abandonment. These children typically grow up with low self-esteem, helplessness, an emotional dependency, and a host of other issues.

Child abandonment is a very serious issue and one that parents must not take lightly. Abandoning a child can have devastating effects on the child’s health and emotional well-being for a lifetime. There are also very serious legal consequences for child abandonment, which may include misdemeanor or felony convictions, hefty fines, and time served in prison.

How JacksonWhite Law Can Help

Same as the Arizona Child Abuse Department would do, our family law lawyers will focus on being able to keep the family together, as breaking up a family can be devastating to a child. With that being said, they will do whatever is best for the child, whatever scenario that means. Working with a skilled family law attorney highly outweighs the cost of hiring one, these situations are extremely complicated and emotionally driven. You will want someone on your side that understands the law and is committed to doing what is best for the child.

Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.

Contact Our Family Law Team

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