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When are my kids old enough to be left home alone?

State laws differ, and some cities and counties have their own laws on the subject. The majority of states, however, do not have a minimum age. They leave the decision to the children’s parents since, in reality, regardless of what the law says, a child who is not mature enough to be left home alone should not be left home alone.

While some states have laws in place that set an age, others rely on agencies to determine the right age. These agencies can then investigate reports of a child who may be too young to be left alone. Below are 13 states that have designated the minimum age a child can be left home alone.

  • Colorado: 12 years old.
  • Delaware: 12 years old.
  • Georgia: 9 years old.
  • Illinois: 14 years old.
  • Kansas: 6 years old.
  • Maryland: 8 years old.
  • Michigan: 11 years old.
  • New Mexico: 10 years old.
  • North Carolina: 8 years old.
  • North Dakota: 9 years old.
  • Oregon: 10 years old.
  • Tennessee: 10 years old.
  • Washington: 10 years old.

In addition, some areas may have local ordinances. For instance, the Albuquerque, New Mexico, city code states that children must be at least 11 years old to be left alone.

If a child is too young to be left home alone, parents can suffer legal consequences. Child Protective Services, or a similar agency, can get involved, and criminal penalties, including fines or even jail time for child endangerment or abandonment can be imposed.

For example, the Delaware Division of Family Services will investigate a report of a child under 12 left home alone and if a child over 12 with a disability is left home alone.

Here are some examples of the legal consequences parents in certain states can face:

  • Illinois: Parents can be charged with the crime of child neglect if a child under 14 is left home alone.
  • Maryland: If a child under 8 is left home alone, the parent or guardian can be fined $500 and imprisoned for 30 days.
  • North Carolina: Under this state’s fire code, parents can potentially be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor if a child under 8 is left home alone.

How long can I leave my kids alone for?

Various states limit how long a child can be left at home alone. For instance, in Georgia, children between ages 9 and 12 can be left alone for a maximum of two hours.

In Arizona, Child Protective Services advise that any child between 6 and 9 can be left at home up to three hours at a time.

The State Attorney’s office of Minnesota advises the following:

  • Ages 8-9: up to two hours.
  • Ages 10-13: not more than 12 hours.
  • Ages 14-17: not more than 24 hours.

When it comes leaving your kids home alone for longer periods of time, such as a weekend or overnight trip, there are several factors:

  • State laws.
  • Local ordinances.
  • The age of the child.
  • The maturity level of the child.

Guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services along with a collaboration of states suggest that a child aged 16-17 may be left at home unsupervised for a maximum of two days.

Can I allow my kids to have friends over when I am not home?

Whether you own or rent a home, you are the one legally responsible for keeping it a safe environment for guests. If you are not home and your child has friends over, you may be liable if something goes wrong, such as an injury to a child.

Review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, speak with the friends’ parents, and discuss the circumstances with your own children.

What can I do to leave my kids home safely?

When it comes to leaving your kids home alone, here are some tips that can help keep them safe:

  • Make an easily accessible emergency contact information list.
  • Ask a trusted nearby adult, like a neighbor, to be on standby.
  • Prepare your children for different types of emergencies.
  • Set a schedule to call your child during the time you are away.
  • Regularly walk around your home with your child, showing them how to lock windows and doors, work alarm systems, and stay safe.
  • Make a list of what is off-limits while you are out, including fireplaces, gas stoves or ovens.

Additional options to help keep your children safe, include the following:

If you have more questions about leaving your child home alone, reaching out to a Rocket Legal Pro™ is an easy and reliable way to get affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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