Legal Question in Family Law in Mississippi

child abandonment

I have a 9 year old child who has not seen or talked to his father in about 4 1/2 years he doesnt pay child support. Is that child abandonment??? Can I strip his rights? I have custody!!

Asked on 7/09/09, 12:17 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

John Jesperson Minnesota Lawyers - Jesperson Law Offices
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Re: child abandonment

The simple answer is that abandonment can be grounds for termination of parental rights, in a proceeding under Minnesota Statutes Sec. 260C.301. However, where custody has been determined in a divorce proceeding, the court is typically very reluctant to terminate the non-custodial parent's parental rights, even if support is not being paid and there are long gaps in parenting time. Very often a case which seems rather straight forward on the surface has much more complexity when you look deeper. His ability to provide support and exercise parenting time may be affected by a move, loss of job or income, etc. Further, once a parent's rights are terminated, the parent no longer has an obligation for child support, and the child can no longer derive any future benefit from that parent, such as Social Security benefits payable upon the death of a parent, or inheritance. In theory, yes, parental rights can be terminated. In practice, it is seldom done outside the context of a step-parent adoption (unless there are extraordinary circumstances -- the parent abuses the child, for example). You are most likely to succeed with a termination of parental rights if you are remarried, and a step-parent is prepared to adopt the child.

Call my office 952.285.2944 if you have further questions about this matter.

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7/09/09, 1:44 am
Albert Pettigrew Law Offices Ph 228-875-8736
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Re: child abandonment

R.L. v. G.F. 2008-MS-A0123.001 (Jan. 22, 2006)the Miss. Court of Appeals wrote:

The Mississippi Supreme Court has acknowledged that "[f]ailure to pay child support without more is insufficient predicate for a finding of abandonment." Carter v. Taylor, 611 So.2d 874, 877 (Miss. 1993).

....

Mississippi Code Annotated Section 93-15-103(3)(b) (Rev. 2004), ... allows parental rights to be terminated when "[a] parent has made no contact with a child under the age of three (3) for six (6) months or a child three (3) years of age or older for a period of one (1) year[.]

In that case, the trial court found that the custodial parent's testimony and the guardian ad litem's investigation had proven RL failed to have contact with his child for a period of one year.

Even though proving failure is proving that something didn't happen, I believe the burden of proving failure is on the custodial parent. So you will have to prove that the noncustodial parent had reasonable opportunity to exercise his rights of visitation. However, any failures to enforce his rights of visitation are also relevant.

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7/09/09, 9:29 am

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