Free-Range Parenting: Family Law Expert Examines State Laws On Leaving Children Unsupervised

Aug 05, 2015, 08:00 ET from Weinberger Law Group

PARSIPPANY, N.J., Aug. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- An issue igniting fierce debate among parents in recent months is the question of what age is an appropriate age for leaving children unsupervised. Whether it is being left alone at home or at the local park, or walking the neighborhood streets somewhere in between, how old is old enough for young kids to be on their own? 

In her recently published New Jersey Law Journal article, "Free-Range Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting: How do NJ courts decide if parents are neglectful?", family law expert Bari Z. Weinberger, Esq. examines this latest parenting war to uncover whether various child protection laws and related court cases provide any clear cut guidance on age requirements for parental supervision.

Amongst Weinberger's key findings:

  • Only a limited number of states offer specific laws designating minimum ages for children to be left alone. For example, in Maryland, where free-range parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv made headlines this past spring when they were charged with neglect for allowing their children, ages 6 and 10, to play in a park unsupervised, state law prohibits parents from leaving children under 8 alone in a building or vehicle unless they are supervised by a reliable person who is at least 13 years old. The charges against the Meitiv parents were eventually dropped (Washington Post, May 2015).
  • New Jersey is among the majority of states with no minimum age for children being left unsupervised. When charges of child neglect are brought before the courts, judges look at the facts of each case and consider whether or not an ordinary reasonable person would understand that a particular situation is "perilous" to a child."

Weinberger highlights two examples of how the New Jersey courts have interpreted age. In 2009, an Appellate Division court concluded no neglect was present when a mother allowed her 3- and 5-year-old children to walk home alone from a playground while she stayed behind for approximately thirty minutes. But in another case, the Court affirmed a finding of neglect where the mother of a 19-month-old left her child for about ten minutes in a locked car with the windows cracked an inch and the engine running.

As for which side -- free-range or helicopter parents (summarized on -- wins this debate, Weinberger concludes that in New Jersey, at least, it appears to be a draw.

"New Jersey courts are concerned not only with a child's age but also with the overall circumstances of a situation," she writes.

About Bari Z. Weinberger, Esq.
Family law expert and certified matrimonial law attorney, Bari Z. Weinberger, is the founder and managing partner of Weinberger Law Group, New Jersey's largest divorce and family law firm. Ms. Weinberger is available for media interviews on all aspects of home alone laws.  

Bari Z. Weinberger, Esq.
Phone: (888) 888-0919

SOURCE Weinberger Law Group