In order to prove that a defendant is guilty of neglecting to support an illegitimate child under the statute, the government must prove that the defendant was financially able or had the earning capacity to contribute to the support of the child.
An unmarried mother had a sexual relationship with the Defendant and became pregnant with his child. She discussed the pregnancy with the Defendant and notified him when their son was born. The Defendant did not provide any financial support. The Defendant was charged and convicted of neglecting to support an illegitimate child. The Defendant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to establish his financial ability to support the allegedly illegitimate child, one of the elements of the crime.
Can a jury convict a defendant for neglecting to support an illegitimate child if there is no evidence that the defendant is financially able to contribute to the support of the child?
On appeal, the court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to establish only two of the three elements of the crime: first, that the Defendant was the parent of the illegitimate child, and second, that he knew or should have known of the existence of a valid claim of his parentage prior to the service of the complaint for nonpayment of child support. The third element, whether the Defendant neglected or willfully refused to contribute reasonably to the child’s support and maintenance, necessarily implies that the Defendant was financially capable of making contributions to the child. Because there was no evidence offered in support of this claim, the Defendant was entitled to a required finding of not guilty.