It is not uncommon to get into legal disputes involving children’s issues where one parent alleges that the other parent routinely fails to provide adequate supervision because a child is left alone at home occasionally. For example, I’ve been involved in squabbles in court involving an 8 year old being alone for as little as 10 minutes on rare occasions while mom was delayed in traffic returning home from her job. During these disputes, many people are surprised to learn that Texas has no law that specifies the minimum age at which a child can left home alone. But, the story doesn’t stop there.
The real answer to at what age can a child be left home alone is “it depends.” As we know, Child Protective Services (CPS) does at times find parents have committed “neglectful supervision” after investigating a complaint.
- the emotion maturity and capability of the child;
- the layout and safety of the home;
- the hazards and risks in the neighborhood;
- the child’s ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies;
- whether the child can contact an adult; and,
- how long and how often the child is left alone.
The list above is not all inclusive. Other factors may bear upon the situation too. The CPS guideline factors are a good tool for parents to use too when deciding whether its appropriate and safe to leave a child home alone. To read more about the subject on the Department of Family and Protective Services (i.e. the parent organization of CPS), click here.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm, PLLC. The firm provides a spectrum of family law-related services to clients in the greater San Antonio region, across the United States and throughout the world. The firms also provides Wills and Estates and Probate services.