California Landmark Cases on Child Abandoned by Parent

The Family Code permits a court to declare a child under the age of 18 years to be free from the custody and control of a parent when the parent has abandoned the child. ( 7820, 7822.) A declaration of freedom from custody and control terminates all of the parent's parental rights and responsibilities to the child. ( 7803.) A parent abandons his or her child when the parent "has left the child in the care and custody of the other parent for a period of one year without any provision for the child's support, or without communication from the parent, with the intent on the part of the parent to abandon the child." ( 7822, subd. (a)(3); In re Marriage of Jill & Victor D. (2010) 185 Cal.App.4th 491, 500.) "'"'To constitute abandonment there must be an actual desertion, accompanied with an intention to entirely sever, so far as it is possible to do so, the parental relation and throw off all obligations growing out of the same.'"' " (In re E.M. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 828, 839.) The intent to abandon need not be permanent; it is sufficient if the parent intended to abandon the child for the statutory period. (In re Amy A. (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 63, 68.) The parent's failure to support or communicate with the child is presumptive evidence of the intent to abandon. ( 7822, subd. (b).) If the parent has "made only token efforts to support or communicate with the child" during the statutory period, the court may properly declare the child abandoned. (Ibid.) The questions of physical abandonment and intent, including whether the statutory presumption has been overcome, are questions of fact for the trial court to resolve. (Adoption of Oukes (1971) 14 Cal.App.3d 459, 466.) The trial court's findings must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. ( 7821; In re Amy A., supra, 132 Cal.App.4th at p. 67.) On appeal, our task is to determine whether the record contains substantial evidence to support the trial court's determinations. (In re E.M., supra, 228 Cal.App.4th at p. 839.) In determining whether substantial evidence supports the court's findings, we do not resolve conflicts in the evidence or pass on the credibility of witnesses. (In re Casey D. (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 38, 52-53.) The appellant has the burden of showing the evidence is insufficient to support the findings. (In re E.M., supra, at p. 839.)