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Leaving children home alone during summer

Leaving-children.jpgOne of the biggest problems parents often face during the summer is what to do with their children. Childcare options are expensive and often limited. Couples sometimes split shifts -- with one parent working days and the other nights in order to make sure that their child is supervised. Single parents hire sitters or pay relatives to watch their children.

At some point, however, you may start wondering if your child could be old enough to stay home alone for a while -- and what the laws are on the issue.

In Texas, there is no specific law regarding "how old is old enough" to be left alone. However, that doesn't mean that a child of any age can simply be left alone. If you don't use good judgement, leaving a child alone at home for even a short while can result in your arrest and charges of neglect. It could also quickly propel you into a battle for custody with concerned relatives, including ex-spouses or grandparents.

So how do you judge? Generally speaking, the younger the child, the less likely he or she can be left unsupervised for long -- or at all. A good guide to follow is:

  • Never leave any child under the age of eight alone at all -- period.
  • Children between the ages of eight and 10 should never be left without a caretaker at night, but can be left during the day for up to 90 minutes.
  • Children between the ages of 11 and 12 can be left at home for up to three hours, but only during daytime.
  • Once a child is 13, he or she can be left without a caretaker during the day, but only if he or she is mature enough to handle the responsibility.

By the time your child is old enough to have a part-time job, you can generally stop being concerned -- as long as your child is of average maturity and ability for his or her age.

Ultimately, however, it's still a judgement call. Even a teenager can be unsafe to be left alone while you work if he or she is particularly reckless or immature. The bottom line is that you should trust your instincts and use an abundance of caution. It's better to pay a sitter than end up in legal trouble instead.

Source: FindLaw, "When Can You Leave a Child Home Alone?," accessed June 08, 2018

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Accolades & Achievements

Karen Marvel, Brandon Wong and Michael C. de la Garza Are Proud To Have Achieved The Following Legal Accolades for Exemplary Legal Service.

*Karen Marvel was recognized in Texas Monthly in 2008-2017 as a Texas Super Lawyer by Texas Super Lawyers (a Thomson Reuters service)

**Karen Marvel is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization