Can you leave children home alone?
The twelve (or more) weeks of school holidays each year are undoubtedly a great time for family fun and relaxation. That same time of course often poses a real challenge for full time working parents. The solution often involves relying on others for support and maybe even considering leaving the children home alone for some of the time. Where the parents happen to be separated, these arrangements commonly draw conflict. So what are the rules?
Firstly, under sec 364A of the Qld Criminal Code it is actually a criminal offence for a parent to leave a child less than 12 years of age alone for an unreasonable length of time without making reasonable provision for the child’s supervision. What is “reasonable” will of course depend on the circumstances. Leaving two children aged 10 and 11 alone inside the safety of their own home for an hour or so would usually be considered reasonable if they had appropriate safety instructions whereas leaving a 6 year old inside a parked car even for a few minutes whilst a parent ducks into the shops would almost always be considered unreasonable. With cars also, the ignition key must be removed if there are persons under 16 years of age still in the car and the ignition cannot be left running if there is no one over 16 years still in the car and the parent is more than three meters away.
Any parent is free to make use of other persons to take up some of the supervision time provided that person is reasonably capable (both physically and mentally/intellectually) to perform all of the usual parenting roles which might be called for during that time. For short and controlled situations, a young adolescent of say 16 years or older might be acceptable but generally the expectation would be for an adult. If the parents are separated, family court judges generally accept that parents should and must be allowed to draw on support networks to help with childcare so that the parent may hold down a job but where a parent is found to be making prolific use of third persons to care for children and those persons are either not trust worthy or are not familiar to and trusted by the children then judges certainly have the power to either limit the offending parent’s time with the children or require the parent to be personally available for the children’s supervision at all times when the children are set to be in that parent’s care.
Michael Zande is the Principal of Zande Law Solicitors, with 30 years’ experience in practice. Michael and his team have had extensive experience in conveyancing matters. Please feel free to review our firm and staff profiles at www.zandelaw.com.au
The information in this article is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law. This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information. When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.