What is considered to be child abandonment?

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What is considered to be child abandonment?

I am 16 years old and live with my father. Custody is divided evenly among my parents although, the visitation is every other weekend at my mom’s during the school year and one week on/one week off during the summer. My dad and I had gotten in a confrontation ending with him taking my house key. I then walked to my mom’s house and she took me in for the rest of the week; this was not her required visitation week. As the week went on, I needed clothing from my dad’s house. All locks on the house were changed and the garage code had been changed as well. He was legally required to take care of me that week and had not allowed me in the home. He still will not allow me inside. If I am to take this up with the family court system, will they rule in my favor? I am looking for advice.

Asked on June 20, 2012 under Family Law, California


Cameron Norris, Esq. / Law Office of Gary W. Norris

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

I would recommend keeping this out of the court system entirely and just trying to avoid staying at your dad's.  Next time he does anything like he did, call the police, however the police may end up calling child protective services (see below).

However, if you want to prevent this from ever happening again, you have two choices.  One will be really rough on everyone and especially hard on your dad. 

Track #1: CPS and Dependency Court

It is called the juvenile dependency system.  You call the local child protective services office and tell them what happened.  They will remove you from your parents' custody and hopefully place you with your mother.  You risk being placed in foster care.  If the court finds your father abandoned you, they may terminate his parental rights, making it so that he is technically no longer your legal father.  This process is all very difficult, but it would work.

Track #2: Family Law Court

The easier option is to file in family law court for a change of custody.  It would be much easier for your mother to file, but I believe you could also file, although I have never heard of it being done before.  Your father acting this way is a "material change in the circumstances" that would give the court reason to change the custody/vistation order that is curretly in place.  However, California encourages contact between parents and their children and may still leave some vistation in place. 

I would recommend your mother retain an attorney and file for a change in the current custody order.  The recent events would probably be adequate grounds for the change.

Best of luck. 

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