Child Abandonment Rules in Iowa

By Rebekah Worsham

sad girl image by Mat Hayward from

Child abandonment, the desertion of a child under the age of eighteen by one or both parents, is considered a crime in most states, including Iowa. Child abandonment is abuse and Iowa has imposed tough laws regarding child abandonment. As a result, in order for a parent or legal guardian to be charged with the offense of child abandonment, specific qualifying criteria must be present to demonstrate abandonment has occurred.

What Constitutes Abandonment?

According to the laws of the state of Iowa, abandonment of a child occurs when a a child's parent or legal guardian leaves the child in an unsupervised environment for any period of time that could reasonably cause the child to go without shelter, food or protection from harm. For criminal charges, the defendant must be shown to have willfully abandoned the child without regard to the child's physical, emotional or environmental safety. This also can include caregivers who leave the child in the hands of child care workers, relatives, neighbors or any other person for extended periods without proper notice or designated plans to return.

Exceptions to the Law

Under the laws of Iowa, certain exceptions may prevent an individual who is the parent or legal caregiver from being charged with abandonment. These exceptions include the birth of a newborn or child whose parent has voluntarily given up parental rights to the child through adoption and who has voluntarily released custody of the child as a result. Additional considerations that may prevent a biological parent from being charged with abandonment is if a father can show that he was not made aware of the existence of his child and therefore had no knowledge of his duties of support and mothers who release their newborn child to Safe Haven designated locations, relinquishing their rights at the time of birth.

Legal Ramifications

Any person who is found to have committed the crime of child abandonment through proper investigation and procedure by court can be charged as a class C felon under Iowa law. A party convicted of a class C felony in the state of Iowa may be subject to up to 10 years in prison and from $1,000 to $10,000 in fines as of October, 2010. In addition, if the abandonment of a dependent child results in the death of the child, the parent can face homicide charges, which can include 15 years to life imprisonment and fines of $10,000 or more.