It is very common these days for both parents to work outside of the home, whether on a part-time or full-time basis. For many parents, this requires a juggling of responsibilities and it also requires making sure that children are supervised and looked after appropriately. It is difficult enough for many parents to find the appropriate care for their children when two parents are living under the same roof; however, the situation becomes even more complicated when parties are separated or divorced.
While Virginia law does not provide a specific age at which you can leave your child at home alone, many Virginia counties set their own guidelines for supervision of minor children. These guidelines are typically drafted and developed by social workers and other community members. These county-specific guidelines are not laws; however, not following them can have legal implications.
Virginia courts are legally required to base decisions regarding custody and visitation on the best interests of the child, applying the factors listed in Virginia Code § 20-124.3. Each parent’s decision-making, and how their decisions affect the children, are relevant considerations for courts applying those factors. That includes decisions about whether or not to leave children at home unsupervised.
Given that children mature at different rates and ages, following county guidelines for supervision may be appropriate in certain circumstances, but not in others. A parent who is facing a custody case should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney before he or she takes on a new job or starts a new work schedule that could require leaving children unsupervised. There are some parents who will seek to use one parent’s leaving children home alone against them just to gain an upper hand in a custody case. For example, a parent could call the Department of Social Services, or law enforcement, if children are left home unsupervised. It is typically advisable that the custodial parent offer the non-custodial parent the opportunity to assist with watching the children, rather than leaving them home alone.
If you have questions about the impact of leaving your children home alone on your custody case, be sure to consult with a family law attorney in your jurisdiction. The family lawyers at Livesay & Myers, P.C. have years of experience with custody and visitation matters in courts across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.