It is far more common today than in years past for both parents in a household to work outside the home. It is also increasingly common for children to be raised in single-parent households. Child care can be very expensive and many parents struggle to afford things like daycare or after-school care for their kids. Whether by choice or out of necessity, more parents are leaving their children home alone. It is natural for people to want to protect and take care of children, so when we see children being left alone, it raises big red flags in our minds. It is not illegal to leave children home alone, but depending on the circumstances, it may draw the attention of New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City child abuse defense attorneys explain more about the consequences of leaving children unattended and whether jail time is a likely possibility.
Am I Allowed to Leave My Child Home Alone in New Jersey?
You are, in fact, allowed to leave your children unattended. No law in New Jersey specifically makes leaving children alone a punishable offense. For many parents, leaving children alone for short periods of time is necessary because babysitters and daycare are too expensive. Simply leaving your child home alone will not cause you to go to jail.
Leaving your child home alone becomes a problem and possibly a crime when you leave your child alone under dangerous conditions or circumstances. For example, leaving your child alone for a few hours until you come home from work is probably fine. As long as you provide a safe environment for your child until you get home, you will not face any legal trouble. If you leave your child home alone under dangerous conditions, such as having no food in the house or the heat is turned off in the middle of winter, this may lead to legal consequences. Also, leaving your child home alone for too long may be considered neglect and could result in criminal charges. It’s one thing to leave a child home alone for a few hours, but it is unacceptable to leave them alone for a few days. Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers are here to help you understand when you may face jail time for this.
Will I Go to Jail if I Leave My Child Home Alone in New Jersey?
The answer to this question is maybe. You are allowed to leave your child home alone if need be, but you may face criminal charges if your child is left in dangerous or unsafe conditions. If you only leave your children home alone for short periods of time, you ensure they are left in a safe environment, and you have prepared them to take care of themselves for the brief period they are alone, you likely will not go to jail any time soon.
As stated above, leaving children home alone in unsafe conditions or for long periods of time may lead to neglect charges. The state takes crimes against children extremely seriously and will intervene if a parent or guardian is suspected of causing or allowing harm to their child.
Most parents do everything they can to protect and take care of their children. Leaving children home alone is not a punishable offense on its own. However, if you are leaving your child alone under unsafe conditions or leaving them alone for extended periods of time, you may face criminal charges and penalties for child abuse in New Jersey, including jail time.
What Constitutes Child Abuse or Neglect in New Jersey?
New Jersey law defines abuse, neglect, cruelty, or abandonment of a child rather broadly. There is not an exhaustive and complete list of offenses that are considered abuse or neglect. Instead, many different acts may be regarded as neglectful or abusive, depending on the circumstances.
The law defines neglect as a parent or guardian failing to provide food, shelter, clothing, maintenance, education, medical treatment, and a clean, safe home for a child. The law also states that failure to do something required for a child’s well-being may also be neglect.
Leaving your child home alone could constitute neglect in New Jersey, but only if doing so would result in harm to your child.
Penalties for Child Abuse or Neglect in New Jersey
Neglect of a child may be charged as a crime of the fourth degree. However, the exact nature of the charges may depend on the extent of the harm caused to the child. A fourth-degree crime in New Jersey may be punished by up to 18 months in prison. It is not uncommon for defendants charged with neglect to be charged with other offenses associated with child abuse and face additional penalties.
Charges of neglect may lead to jail time for a defendant, but there may be other consequences as well. Defendants convicted of neglect may lose custody of their children. This may be avoided with the help of an experienced Northfield criminal defense lawyer. The state does not want to leave children in the guardianship of parents who have proven themselves unwilling or unable to care for them properly. Children who have been neglected may be removed from the defendant’s home and placed with other family members or into the care of the state.
Contact Our NJ Child Abuse Criminal Defense Attorney for Help
Leaving your child home alone in New Jersey is a crime on its own and probably will not lead to jail time. Most parents who leave their kids home alone do so because they have few other options. They also typically make sure their children are left under safe conditions and only for short periods of time, such as a few hours after school. Jail time becomes a possibility when leaving a child alone becomes neglectful and the child is left under unsafe conditions. If you or someone you know left their child home alone and is now facing legal consequences, contact our New Jersey criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for assistance. Call (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation.