Child Abandonment Laws in Indiana

By Editorial Team

Updated July 21, 2017

Sad little boy


Indiana has several different laws that relate to child abandonment, including statutes about abandoning babies, statues defining abandonment of a child of any age as neglect, and provisions for criminal penalties. Indiana law also allows the courts to terminate parental rights if a parent abandons a child.

Abandoned Babies

Indiana Code section 31-9-2-0.4 defines an abandoned child as a child who appears to be less than 45 days old and is knowingly left with an emergency healthcare provider without an intention by the parent or guardian to return. Indiana Code section 31-9-2-0.5 defines an abandoned infant as one who is less than 12 months old and is intentionally left by a parent, guardian or custodian in a dangerous place or in a medical facility that has not agreed to take care of the child.

Abandonment as Neglect

Abandonment is also part of the definition of child neglect found in Indiana Code section 35-46-1-4. Under the statute anyone who has the responsibility to care for a dependent child commits the crime of neglect if that person intentionally abandons the child. The basic crime of neglect is a Class D felony in Indiana, but it can be a more serious crime if the child is injured or harmed as a result of the abandonment.

Termination of Parental Rights

In certain circumstances courts have the power to terminate parental rights under Indiana Code Section 31-34-21-5.6. If a parent has been convicted of child neglect, which includes abandonment, as a Class B felony, or if the child was an abandoned infant under the statutory definition in Indiana Code section 31-9-2-0.5, parental rights can be terminated. Conviction for child neglect as a Class B felony means that some harm came to the child as the result of the parent’s abandonment. If parental rights are terminated, the parent becomes a legal stranger to the child with no rights of contact. The child can be adopted as the legal child of a stepparent or other adoptive parent.