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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 118175
Experience:  Attorney with over 20 years law enforcement, prosecution, civil rights and defense experience
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Im charged with Child Abandonment in Georgia. The charge is

Customer Question

I'm charged with Child Abandonment in Georgia. The charge is ridiculous since I've paid over $30,000 in support, moved across country to live closer to my children (3 miles away), and have charged my ex with contempt for her failure to provide visitation. Unfortunately, I live in a small county where my ex's wealth and influence are apparently influencing the Solicitor's Office. To the point, there must be total abandonment (no money, food, shelter...etc) for 30 days prior to commencement of prosecution. The Solicitor's Office position is that they can pick any 30 days within the Statute of Limitations (2yrs.), and not the 30 days immediately prior to commencement. They think they've found a 30 day window, not 31, at a time when I lost my job and my ex denied visitation. Thus, I am charged. I can't find any case law on the issue probably because no one would normally face the same malicious prosecution. My question is how can I find out what "prior to commencement" means. Thank You.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 7 years ago.
The term "prior to commencement" is not defined in the GA Code or in the cases by the court and thus would have its ordinary meaning. The ordinary meaning is that this incident had to occur before they could bring charges, it does not say in what period before they could bring charges and does not say anything else, so as long as the time period was before they brought charges, then it was prior to commencement of the action .

However, OCGA § 19-7-1(b)(3), states that parental power can be lost by "[f]ailure to provide necessaries for the child or abandonment of the child." In Sims v. Sims, 171 Ga.App. 99, 100, 318 S.E.2d 805 (1984), the court found that "n order to find an abandonment, there must be sufficient evidence of an actual desertion, accompanied by an intention to sever entirely, as far as possible to do so, the parental relation, throw off all obligations growing out of the same, and forego all parental duties and claims. [Cits.]" In the case of B.D.C., In re, 348 S.E.2d 548, 180 Ga.App. 87 (Ga. App., 1986), the court found that it was abundantly clear that during 1982, 1983, and 1984, the father completely failed to support the child, the court stated that the abandonment had to be contemporaneous with the filing of the petition, meaning in the same year the petition was filed. The BDC court found that because the father paid $4,000 in support less than one month before the petition was filed they stated that abandonment or a failure to provide necessities must be found as of the time the petition is filed, and thus the fact that he may not have paid in previous years made the evidence insufficient to find abandonment or failure to provide necessities based on the record before us. Sale v. Leachman, 218 Ga. 834, 131 S.E.2d 185 (1963).

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Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Don't quite understand your answer. You can't charge a future crime so prior to commencement must mean for 30 consecutive days up to commencement. ... wouldn't you think? Otherwise, wouldn't you simply say for 30 days in the statute. Thanks.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 7 years ago.
My answer was pretty clear, the actual abandonment had to have occurred within the same year they are charging you. I did not say anywhere in my answer you could be charged before the elements of the crime took place. I provided you with the exact words used by the Supreme Court of GA on the issue. They were pretty clear, but it did not say it had to be the immediate 30 days prior to commencement, they just said the abandonment had to occur within the same year as the charges. I didn't make those words up, they were directly from the GA Supreme Court.