Child abandonment is the physical and legal forfeiture of child custody by a parent or legal guardian without the benefit of concurrent or subsequent adoption proceedings. Abandonment committed in a manner potentially harmful to the child may result in felony charges and imprisonment in the state of Missouri. Missouri statutes address the crime of child abandonment and associated penalties, as well as safe alternatives to relinquishing parental rights.
First Degree Abandonment
Missouri Revised Statute (RsMo) 568.030 prohibits a parent or legal guardian from leaving a child under the age of 4 in a place in which circumstances could result in serious physical harm or death of the child. This crime constitutes first degree abandonment of a child and is a Class B felony. Conviction of the offense could result in imprisonment of 5 to 15 years.
Second Degree Abandonment
A parent or legal guardian who abandons a child under the age of 8 in circumstances that may lead to serious injury or death of the child will be charged with second degree child abandonment as per RsMo 568.032. The offense is classified as a Class D felony and a conviction may result in imprisonment of up to four years.
Safe Haven Law
Missouri law (RsMo 210.950.1) allows a parent or guardian to leave a child up to 1 year of age in the custody of designated individuals such as law enforcement, firefighters or medical personnel without prosecution of abandonment or endangerment of a child. Leaving the child at one of the specified safe locations is considered a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights and a legal process to terminate parental rights will ensue.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
If a parent has not provided support for or attempted communication or visitation with a child over the age of 1 for at least six months, it may result in termination of parental rights as stated in RsMo 211.447.4.