Kansas Laws on Abandonment by Custodial Parents

By Randall Pierce J.D.

Updated July 21, 2017

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Abandonment of a child occurs when parents decide to surrender custody of their child and have no role in the child's life. This action affects the child physically and emotionally, and also has serious consequences for the parents. Abandoned children often become wards of the state, and Kansas therefore treats child abandonment by parents very seriously. The Kansas legislature has enacted several statutes to deal with child abandonment.


Kansas Statutes Annotated 38-1583 provides that abandonment can be a ground for the termination of parental rights. While it is not the only factor, and may not be enough in and of itself, the court will consider this act when determining termination. This statute covers abandonment where custody of the child was surrendered according to statute and situations where the parents are unknown and do not come forward to reclaim the child.


K.S.A. 21-3604 -- Abandonment of a Child -- is a statute that makes abandonment a crime. Kansas defines abandonment as leaving a child under the age of 16 in a place where the child may suffer because of neglect. The statute covers parents or any other persons who have custody. The custodian must intend to abandon the child for it to be a criminal act. Abandonment is a lower severity -- level 8 -- felony against a person.

Aggravated Abandonment

Aggravated abandonment -- K.S.A. 21-3604a -- contains the same elements as regular abandonment, with the additional factor of great bodily harm resulting from the abandonment. The harm that constitutes great bodily harm is difficult to objectively define, so typically a jury determines whether it has occurred. Aggravated abandonment is a severity level 5 felony against a person; considerably more serious than just abandonment.

Safe Haven Law

The Kansas newborn infant protection act -- K.S.A. 38-2282 -- was enacted in 2007. This statute is also known as the safe haven law. It allows for a parent to legally abandon a child -- provided certain conditions are met -- without the criminal penalty of the abandonment statute. The child must be younger than 45 days old and cannot have suffered any bodily injury. Parents may surrender physical custody to an employee of a fire station, city or county health department or medical care facility.