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North Carolina Child Neglect and Child Abandonment Laws

Neglect and abandonment are forms of child abuse that many consider just as damaging as outright physical abuse. Child neglect occurs when a parent or caregiver does not adequately provide for the child and that inactivity can lead to the child's needs not being met. Similarly, child abandonment involves inactivity too, but happens when the parent voluntarily departs from a child's life.

Child neglect and child abandonment are classified separately under North Carolina law. North Carolina criminalizes child neglect under the offense of contributing to delinquency and neglect by parents and others; child abandonment is covered under the offense of abandonment and failure to support spouse and children.

Overview of North Carolina Child Neglect and Child Abandonment Laws

The chart below provides a summary of statutes related to North Carolina's child neglect and child abandonment laws, including links to important code sections.


  • North Carolina General Statutes 7B-101(15) (Child neglect)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-316.1 (Contributing to delinquency and neglect by parents/others)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-322 (Abandonment and failure to support spouse and children)

Child Neglect


Neglected juvenile means a child:

  • Who does not receive proper care, supervision, or discipline from his or her parent, guardian or custodian/ caregiver;
  • Who does not receive necessary medical or remedial care;
  • Who lives in an environment injurious to his or her welfare;
  • Who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of the law.
  • It is relevant whether the child lives in a home where another child has died as a result of suspected abuse or has been subjected to abuse or neglect by an adult who regularly lives in the home.

"Serious neglect" means that the actor's conduct demonstrates such a high level of disregard to consequences for the child that it is considered dangerous to the child's health, welfare, or safety.

Contributing to delinquency and neglect by parents and others

A person (who is at least 16 years old) is guilty when he or she:

  • Knowingly and willingly,
  • Causes, encourages, or aids,
  • The juvenile to be in a place or condition or,
  • To commit an act where the juvenile can be legally delinquent or undisciplined or
  • Abused or neglected.

Abandonment and failure to support spouse and children

  • Any parent who willfully neglects or refuses to provide adequate support for that parent's child is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor for first-time offenders; for second or subsequent offenses, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

North Carolina Child Neglect and Child Abandonment Laws: Related Resources

Want Guidance on Your Neglect/Abandonment Case? Contact an Attorney

Allegations of child neglect or child abandonment create devastating consequences for everyone involved. If you're dealing with charges, then you might think about seeking out an attorney who can help protect your record, reputation, and your relationship with your kids. Get started now by contacting an experienced North Carolina criminal defense lawyer.

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