Child Home Alone Laws in California

By Beverly Bird ; Updated June 19, 2017
Little boy playing with blocks

California is one of several states that doesn’t have a law that specifies at what age a child can be left alone. But this doesn’t mean it might not be a criminal offense if you do it when he’s too young. The court decides this on a case-by-case basis, and the level of your child’s maturity is usually the pivotal factor. A 10-year-old might be capable of caring for himself, while a rebellious 12-year-old might not be.

Neglect Can Result in Criminal Charges

Provided you don’t walk away and leave your child defenseless without instructions and food and that he’s reasonably mature, you probably won’t be charged with criminal neglect for leaving him for reasonable intervals. But this can depend to some extent on the opinions of strangers. California has a mandatory reporting rule, which means that certain professionals must tell the authorities if they feel you’re neglecting your child. They include teachers and school personnel, adults associated with any youth organization such as community sports teams, and medical professionals. California law defines general neglect as negligently failing to provide your child with shelter, food, clothing, medical care -- and supervision.

Establish Rules for Home-Alone Child

If you think your child is mature enough to be left unattended, the California Department of Education sets out some guidelines for doing so. Write out the child's rules and post them on the refrigerator or in some prominent place so he can easily locate and refer to them. Cover what he should say and do if a stranger telephones or rings the doorbell. List emergency contact numbers and anything else you think is important given your personal circumstances.

About the Author

Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.