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Child Neglect & Abandonment in Texas

Neglect has devastating consequences for children as well as for the broader society. For this reason, Texas has passed laws criminalizing neglect and abandonment. Parents who choose to neglect their children can face serious criminal penalties. In fact, you might possibly end up with a felony record.

If you are facing neglect or abandonment charges, contact Tad Nelson & Associates. Our Houston criminal defense attorney can walk you through the state’s evidence and identify your odds of success fighting back.

Child Neglect

Under Texas law, parents or guardians must provide for their children. They are responsible for food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and supervision. When parents/guardians can no longer provide these necessities, they should either contact the state for help or seek assistance from someone else, like other family members.

Neglect doesn’t mean failing to know where your 16-year-old is on a Tuesday night. It’s usually more serious than that. Texas Family Law Section 261.001(4) offers a very detailed definition of neglect. But it typically involves failing to provide necessities like food, medical care, or shelter, or leaving your child in a dangerous situation that creates a substantial risk of mental or physical harm.

Neglect can be charged as a state jail felony all the way up to a first-degree felony. A state jail felony can send a defendant to jail for up to two years for a first offense, whereas a first-degree felony can result in a maximum of 99 years.


In Texas, abandonment doesn’t have to be as dramatic as leaving a child in a park and hiding behind a tree to see if someone picks them up. Even leaving your child briefly can constitute abandonment under the law.

Texas Penal Code Section 22.041 defines “abandoning or endangering” a child as the following:

  • Leaving a child somewhere without necessary care in a situation when o reasonable adult would do likewise.
  • Leaving a child under 15 in situations that expose the child to unreasonable risks.
  • Placing a child younger than 15 in imminent danger of physical or mental impairment, if done with at least criminal negligence.

Punishment will depend on specific facts:

  • A parent who abandons a child but intends to return can face simple abandonment charges, with a maximum two years in jail.
  • A parent who had no intent to return is facing up to 10 years in jail.
  • Someone who abandons a child in imminent danger can see up to 20 years in prison.

Tad Nelson Can Help

Child neglect and abandonment cases are some of the most complicated we see. Many things are happening at once. Some children have behavioral or physical disabilities which make caring for them challenging. Some parents are struggling with chemical dependency or depression, and the state offers few resources.

Very few parents or guardians intend to hurt their children. But a perfect storm of problems lead to the police knocking on their door, and before you know it you are facing criminal charges.Let us assist you. At Tad Nelson & Associates, our Houston criminal defense attorney will listen to your story and provide a first-rate legal defense.