It was reported today that Alla Kournikova, mother of tennis star Anna Kournikova, was arrested and put in jail on January 19, 2010 on charges of child neglect after leaving her 5-year-old son, Allen, home alone in her $2 million Palm Beach home for more than 50 minutes while she went to the bank and post office. The police report affidavit indicates that a little boy named Allen, a half-brother of the tennis star, was "soaking wet and walking in front of his house, acting very upset." The caller told police that the child said he "had jumped out of a window." This is just plain ridiculous. If this woman was getting a divorce here in Orange County, her spouse would have a lot of ammunition for a drawn out custody battle. A responsible parent would never leave a five year old alone. Period. Not even for a split second.
This recent development got me thinking about parents leaving their children home alone and the effect it would have on California child custody and visitation.
I have been asked many times by clients, at what age can I leave my child home alone? Frankly, there is no clear cut answer. Pursuant to In re Merrick V., 122 Cal.App.4th 235 (2004), the court stated that ". . .leaving a 12 year old home alone posed a substantial risk of harm." Of course the facts and circumstances surrounding the Merrick case are different for everyone. But for purposes of defining an age of when you should not leave your child home alone, to be safe, anyone under 12 years or under should not be left home alone. Other factors such as the child's maturity and responsibility level should also be considered.
Bottom line is that if you intend to leave your child home alone because you have to go to work early or you are working into the later hours of the night, please find alternatives so that the children are not left home alone by themselves for extended periods of time. Leaving children home unsupervised could cause a slew of problems for your divorce if your spouse discovers your inability to supervise and care for your children. Contact an Orange County divorce lawyer for any issues you may have on child custody and visitation.
Source: People- Mother of Tennis Star Anna Kournikova Arrested