Can You Lose Custody for Child Endangerment? Here’s What You Need to Know

Cut out of family unit  judge with gavel deciding custody in background

For most parents, losing child custody is a nightmare scenario. But if the courts are worried about a child’s safety or welfare, this is exactly what might happen. Below, we explain how child endangerment law works in CA and how it affects custody.  

What Is Child Endangerment?

We can find the definition of child endangerment in §273(a) of the California Penal Code

In short, child endangerment means knowingly placing a child in a situation which jeopardizes their health or safety. In other words, the person knows that the child may be harmed but they put the child in this situation anyway.

  • There’s no need for the child to suffer physical harm. It’s enough for the child to simply be at risk of harm. 
  • The law also covers mental suffering. If a child is deliberately placed at risk of severe mental suffering, it could be child endangerment. 

Child endangerment examples include:

  • Deliberately refusing to get help for a sick child. 
  • Leaving a child in someone’s care who has a known history of child abuse. 
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) when there’s a child in the car. 
  • Leaving a very young child home alone.

Child Endangerment Charge

Child endangerment can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the incident. It’s often charged as a felony if there’s physical harm or risk of serious harm.   

  • Any child endangerment charge can result in jail time or financial consequences.
  • The consequences may be more serious if there are other related charges e.g. domestic violence charges. 

In some cases, the defendant could lose child custody. Let’s consider what this means.

What Is Child Custody?

Child custody means having legal rights and responsibilities for a child’s welfare. It gives you the right to make decisions on their behalf and decide how to care for them. For example, having custody means you can decide:

  • Where the child lives
  • What religion they join
  • What medical care they receive 
  • Which school they attend

To lose custody means losing these parental rights and responsibilities. You may also lose visitation rights, depending on the situation.

Reasons for Losing Child Custody

Parents can lose child custody for many reasons. Reasons why you might lose custody include:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Child neglect 
  • Domestic violence 
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse 

What all of these reasons have in common is that they all endanger a child’s welfare. Put simply, then, you can lose custody for child endangerment in CA.

Does Child Endangerment Mean You’ll Definitely Lose Custody?

Cardboard family figures female and child with gavel between them and male figure custody battle

Not automatically. However, the courts do have the power to revoke custody for child endangerment. 

Here are some factors the court may consider when deciding whether to terminate custody.

  • Severity of offense: The courts will consider what happened to the child before terminating custody. For example, courts will look at whether the child was put at risk or if they were actually harmed. 
  • Criminal record: If you have a prior criminal record for certain offenses e.g. drug or sexual abuse, there’s a greater risk that you’ll lose custody. 
  • Prior child endangerment convictions: Judges might punish a first offense for child endangerment less seriously than a subsequent offense. 
  • Interests of the child: A judge won’t terminate custody unless they believe it’s what’s best for the child. 

If you’re facing child endangerment charges, a lawyer can explain how likely it is that you’ll lose custody permanently. 

Can You Get Custody if You’re on Probation for Child Endangerment?

In reality, it’s difficult to get custody if you’re charged with child endangerment. This is the case even while you’re on probation. 

However, do not lose hope. Once the probation ends, it may be possible to seek custody again. In the meantime, the best thing to do is comply with your probation and cooperate with law enforcement. Consider how you can act in your child’s best interests and support them in the future.

Can You Ever Regain Custody of a Child in California?

Yes. Losing child custody is not always permanent. However, regaining child custody is a complex process, and you’ll need an attorney’s help. 

  • Judges will always act in a child’s best interest. If they’re convinced that the child will be safe, you may regain custody.
  • The more evidence you have to prove your case, the better your chances of securing custody.
  • There’s no guarantee you will regain custody of your child. It all depends on why you lost custody and what has changed since the original judgment.  

Child endangerment is a serious charge. An attorney can help you understand whether regaining custody might be possible, and how to petition the court. 

Child Custody and Child Endangerment

California takes child safety very seriously. If you have a child custody case, you need urgent legal advice to help you build your defense. 
In the meantime, if you or a loved one requires bail for a child endangerment charge, we can help. My Bail Hotline is available 24/7 to offer professional bail services across California. We’ll help you secure release as quickly as possible. Don’t hesitate – visit our offices or call today to discuss bail bonds.

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