In general, many parents face similar situations in life. One of these situations involves having to leave a child at home unattended. At some point, parents become overwhelmed with work, school or everyday errands. The hectic schedules in most households make it difficult to have an adult at home every second of the day. This begs the question: is it against the law to leave a child home alone? We all know that it happens on a regular basis, but what does the law say about it? Find out how the law treats these situations in real life.
Is It Illegal?
Most parents going through this situation are concerned with whether the act subjects them to criminal liability. The large majority of parents have good intentions when leaving a child at home. Maybe the parents need to work longer hours to support the family. It could also be that the costs associated with daycare are far too expensive. Each of these reasons are justifiable, and it seems unfair to make it a crime. Fortunately, the law recognizes this and provides some guidelines for when the activity is permissible.
In general, you should take into account the age and maturity of your children when making the decision to leave them alone. In the state of Utah, there is no particular age limit for leaving a child alone. However, it is often recommended that you should never leave a child seven and under without supervision. Children at this age usually need special care, and are unable to recognize danger on their own. It could be reasonable to leave children aged eight to ten at home for an hour or so. Eleven and twelve year olds may be left for a few hours at a time. Of course, teenagers tend to be more independent can take care of themselves for time periods up to two days. However, it really depends on each child's individual ability to care for his or herself. You can also talk to a custody lawyer for additional recommendations.
Crossing the Line
At some point, leaving the child at home can cross into criminal law territory. Most states will treat an unreasonable action by the parent as neglect. This is considered a form of child abuse. Neglect can occur if the child is left alone home for an unreasonable amount of time, or without food or other means of survival. These cases can become serious criminal matters resulting in misdemeanors, or sometimes felonies. If you are charged with neglect, you should hire an experienced attorney who handles criminal law cases. Being convicted of neglect could affect your visitation rights or child custody order.
Playing it Safe
If you need legal advice to determine whether your child care situation is legal, contact an experienced lawyer. Spencer & Jensen PLLC can help. Contact the law office regarding child custody issues, guardianship problems or for help with grandparents rights.