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Should your parenting plan address leaving your child home alone?

You don't think your child is old enough to stay home alone, but your spouse does. Now you're thinking about getting divorced. Should your parenting plan address this topic?

It may be wise, especially if you think that the child's safety could be an issue. The child's best interests are always the focus of these cases. If he or she would not be safe at home without an adult, you may want to propose a plan that lays out rules about how much freedom the child gets.

This doesn't mean your ex can never leave, of course. You could simply stipulate that, should your ex want to leave while he or she has custody of the child, a babysitter needs to be hired.

What factors determine when a child is ready to stay home alone? There are many, and this is usually a topic parents have to talk about together. The answer can be different for every child.

Age, of course, is often the starting point. You may simply feel that your child shouldn't be alone until he or she is 12, for instance.

Maturity can also matter, however. Some children are naturally more mature and responsible than others, and they may be able to stay home alone when you'd never leave another child on his or her own.

Finally, consider the worst-case scenario. If there is an emergency, what will your child do? Does he or she know who to call and how to react?

The key lies in knowing your child and determining what is safe. However, when you and your spouse don't agree, a parenting plan can help lay out rules that you both need to follow.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "What to Consider Before Leaving a Child Home Alone," accessed June 28, 2017

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