Utah Child Abandonment Laws

By Eileen Rivera

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Utah has laws in place to protect children relinquished by their parents. Child abandonment is as an act of child abuse as defined by Utah codes, and under certain circumstances is punishable as a second-degree felony. The codes also provide for safe relinquishment of newborns to hospitals and fire stations.

Child Abandonment

Utah code 76-5-109 defines child abandonment as "a parent or legal guardian of a child who intentionally ceases to maintain physical custody of a child, intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child, and intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing." If a person does not intend to resume custody of the child, or if a person, within a 30-day period, intentionally fails to resume physical contact of the child and fails to establish a genuine intent to resume physical custody of the child, the person is committing child abandonment. Safe relinquishment of a child, or giving consent to a court order of termination of parental rights, is not child abandonment.

Child Abuse

Child abandonment is a type of child abuse under Utah code 76-5-109. If a person is guilty of having abandoned a child, or having caused or encouraged another person to abandon a child, the person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. If the abandonment results in physical injury to the child, the person is guilty of a third-degree felony. If the child receives serious physical injury as the result of abandonment, the person is guilty of a second-degree felony. The person can also be liable for the costs related to prosecuting and investigating the case. Any monetary or tangible benefits resulting from relinquishing the child are subject to forfeiture.

Safe Relinquishment

Utah code 62A-4a-802 sets the guidelines for safe relinquishing of a newborn. These laws allow the parents of a newborn to relinquish physical custody of their child without legal repercussions. Utah law allows a parent or designee of the parent to relinquish a newborn, who is 72 hours of age or younger, to personnel at a hospital or fire station. The hospital must be an acute care hospital, which operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day, is equipped with an emergency room, and employs full-time medical personnel trained in emergency medical services. The fire station must also operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and it must have full-time, paid firefighters with emergency medical services training.