Is it Legal to Leave My Child Home Alone?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 22, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With kids out of school for the summer and camps becoming increasingly expensive, you might be wondering when it's okay for you to leave your child home alone without adult supervision.

While many times you are within your legal rights to leave your child alone, there are certain situations where doing say may amount to child neglect, as it can cause the authorities to question the child's safety.

Unfortunately, there's really no definitive answer to this inquiry, with most situations requiring an analysis of state law and the overall circumstances.

For example, in Illinois, it's simultaneously illegal to leave a child under the age of 13 alone for more than 24 hours, and to leave a minor under the age of 14 alone for an unreasonable amount of time.

This still doesn't mean that a child of 15 can be left alone for a week, or that a 13-year-old can't be left alone if given the proper tools to ensure safety.

Unlike Illinois, most states don't have specific age requirements for a child left home alone, instead focusing on the child's unique situation.

For instance, an average 12-year-old might legally be left alone if it's during the daytime, he has nearby neighbors, the area is safe, and he has access to emergency numbers.

However, it might be illegal to leave a 12-year-old with developmental disabilities alone in the same situation.

Even without legal limitations, you should assess your child's maturity, ability to fend for himself and to recognize when he needs help, as well as the safety of your neighborhood.

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