December 12, 2008

Children Home Alone During Holiday Vacations

We are a society of working parents. In the majority of households, both parents are working either full time or part time. During this economic recession, couples are doing everything they can to remain employed, including working longer hours and taking few holiday vacations. 

Not surprisingly, a question frequently asked of family lawyers by their clients is: “How old should a child be before he or she can be left home alone?” At this time of year (when holidays are coming fast upon us and when parents will be at work), the question is asked even more frequently. This is not a phenomenon limited to the end-of-year holiday season. Divorce attorneys often are asked similar questions during school spring breaks and school summer vacations.

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Like most issues concerning children, there is no simple one size answer that fits all situations. The decision is complicated because much depends upon the individual child and also the family dynamics. There also are other factors to be considered. They can include: quality of the neighborhood in which the family lives; the contentiousness of the divorce or the attack upon the parenting skills of either parent and the availability and affordability of childcare programs for your children during holiday period. In addition, a parent needs to consider not only whether his or her particular child is “old enough”, but also whether the child is ready to be left home alone. The question becomes far more complicated when there are younger siblings also at home. In essence, is the oldest child ready to stay at home and to be in charge of his or her younger siblings?

Some states have a bright line definition which specify in age (e.g. 12 years old) when it is legal to leave children alone. The majority of states, including Florida, do not establish a specific age. Instead, they consider the maturity level and sophistication of the child. In Florida, there is no state law specifying how old the child must be before the child can be left alone at home. In addition, the State of Florida Department of Children and Families does not have a bright line definition for this issue. It is determined on a case-by-case basis. With this lack of specific guidance, each family must make its own careful consideration. Attorney Jeanne Hannah of Michigan has developed a set of guideline questions that parents should be asking themselves when deciding this issue. However, parents must remember that these guidelines are not the deciding factor. The deciding factor is the maturity, sophistication and ability of your individual child to handle the potential worse case scenarios.

To learn more about this issue and to review Attorney Jeanne Hannah’s readiness checklist, please click here .


Board Certified Marital and Family Law Attorney Charles D. Jamieson understands that divorce is an extremely sensitive and important issue. Thanks to extensive experience and a focus on open communication, Attorney Jamieson adeptly addresses the complex issues surrounding divorce while delivering excellent personal service. To discuss divorce in Florida, please contact The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A.The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. or call 561-478-0312.


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