Child Neglect & Abandonment Laws in Arizona

child abandonment in Arizona - girl alone holding stuffed animal

Child Neglect & Abandonment Laws in Arizona

The state of Arizona takes the wellbeing and treatment of its minors very seriously. Because the welfare of a child can be harmed in a number of ways, Arizona has enacted several statutes that define and outline legal punishments for child neglect, abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), exploitation and abandonment. 

When is it Considered Child Abandonment? 

The Arizona Legislature defines the word abandoned as “the failure of the parent to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child, including providing normal supervision.” If there is a record of this type of behavior toward a child under the age of 18 for a period of six months or more, it legally constitutes as child abandonment. 

Common child abandonment scenarios include a father who leaves town without providing any forwarding information; a drug addict who leaves her children at home or with the neighbor for months on end; or a woman who goes to prison and fails to communicate with her children. 

When is it Considered Child Neglect?   

By definition, child neglect is broader than child abandonment and pertains to any of the following activities or behaviors without reference to how long they have been going on. When the inability or unwillingness of a parent, guardian or custodian to provide a child in their care with supervision, food, clothing, shelter or medical care causes unreasonable risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare—under the law they can be charged with child neglect. However, neglect can be harder to prove than abandonment. 

Protection of Life, Health & Morals

ARS 13-3619 states that a person who has custody of a minor under the age of 16 is responsible for their physical, emotional and moral wellbeing. 

According to this statute, an adult who “permits the life of such minor to be endangered, its health to be injured or its moral welfare to be imperiled by neglect, abuse or immoral associations, is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.” 

The punishment that follows a class 1 misdemeanor charge for child neglect or abandonment consists of up to six months in prison, three years of probation and $2,500 in fines. 

Intentional, Reckless or Negligent Child Neglect or Abandonment 

According to ARS 13-3623, punishment for child abandonment or neglect depends on several different factors, including the risk posed to the child and whether the behavior was intentional, reckless or negligent. In most cases, the law regards the direct causing of harm by a parent, guardian, or custodian—and the permitting of harm by another individual—as the same. 

  • Intentional neglect or abandonment, where a person knowingly commits the offense, is punishable as a class 2 felony
  • Reckless neglect or abandonment, where a person carelessly places a child in a position where they may get harmed, is punishable as a class 3 felony
  • Negligent neglect or abandonment, where a person fails to take proper responsibility in their duties of caring for a child, is a class 4 felony.  

Reporting Child Abuse or Neglect in Arizona 

Anyone who is a witness to child abandonment, abuse or neglect should feel confident about reporting the incident. The Arizona Department of Child Safety makes reporting a case easy, whether it’s leaving a child in a hot car, the repetitive absence of a parent or any other harmful behavior. The best way to report an incident of child abuse in Arizona is by calling their hotline: 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445)


Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay (7/25/2019)