What Is an absent Parent?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

"Absent parent" is a legal term that may define the way some parents relate or fail to relate to their children. These parents are not the custodial parent, or the parent with whom a child lives. Instead, they are non-custodial parents who do not reside with the child.

A parent can be involved in a child’s life and pay child support, but if he doesn’t live with the child he is absent.
A parent can be involved in a child’s life and pay child support, but if he doesn’t live with the child he is absent.

There are a couple of ways the term absent parent can be used. Once child custody arrangements are determined, the parent who does not live with the child, and who usually only has visiting rights without sharing custody, is the absent parent. This parent can still be involved in a child’s life and pay child support, but he or she doesn’t live with the child, so he or she is absent or missing from the child’s daily life.

Some parents ignore things like the child support payments they should make, or make no effort to participate in their child’s life.
Some parents ignore things like the child support payments they should make, or make no effort to participate in their child’s life.

Another form of absent parent is one who is completely missing from the child’s life, fully abandoning the child and having nothing to do with him or her. This includes acts such as refusing to make child support payments or refusal to participate in the child's life.

In some cases, the parent with full custody will refuse help or support from the absent parent.
In some cases, the parent with full custody will refuse help or support from the absent parent.

If an absent parent does not provide child support, and in the absence of a mutual and voluntary arrangement between the parents, an absent parent may owe back child support at a later time. The absent parent may be responsible for some support payments if the parent and child have depended on social services like welfare. To avoid this, parents have to go to court and sever the parental rights of the uninvolved parent. This same requirement may exist if at a later point, the custodial parent remarries and has a spouse who would like to adopt the child of the absent parent.

Absent parents often have difficulties connecting with their children.
Absent parents often have difficulties connecting with their children.

When an absent parent needs to pay missed child support payments, courts can seize assets to help make these payments or garnish paychecks. When parents purposely avoid fulfilling their responsibility to their children, custodial parents can use investigators or a variety of services to locate them. Once found, absent parents usually will need to appear in court to discuss their failure to pay adequate child support and are generally given information on new payments and how they will be deducted.

Children with two absent parents are often cared for by grandparents or other relatives.
Children with two absent parents are often cared for by grandparents or other relatives.
Absent parents may allow children to spend long periods of time watching TV while they complete other tasks.
Absent parents may allow children to spend long periods of time watching TV while they complete other tasks.
Teens who have struggled with an absent parent may use destructive behaviors as a way to cope.
Teens who have struggled with an absent parent may use destructive behaviors as a way to cope.
An absent parent may be required to pay back payments of child support.
An absent parent may be required to pay back payments of child support.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon94634

I recently learned my husband, a Florida resident, had a Florida judgment in 1985 awarding $27,000 to the Ocean County Social Services, NJ, in back payments for welfare payments to his ex-wife and two small children. I checked and this award is now worth $68,000.

Ocean County is "not interested" in pursuing this. Can you believe that? My husband makes more than $50,000 a year and we have no bills so he can easily afford to pay but the government can't be bothered.

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