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AlexiaEsq., Managing Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 13564
Experience:  19+ Years of Legal Practice in Family law matters.
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what is the legal age for a child to watch or babysit 2 younger

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what is the legal age for a child to "watch" or babysit 2 younger children in NJ. one is special needs (autisim age 9) and a younger brother (5) . MY ex wants our 13 yr old to babysit these siblings for 8-10 hours a day, by her self, for the whole summer. Any direction as where to research this problem, would be great




Thank you for your question and I look forward to assisting you. Please keep in mind that I can only respond to your post and the information contained in it, as I do not know what you know unless you describe it fully. Also, oftentimes there are future facts that are as yet undetermined in your matter, that can and must leave some areas of information provided by me broad in nature. However, don't hesitate to ask for clarification if needed! At times, there can also be a delay of an hour or more in between my answers because I may be helping other customers or taking a break. That being said...



The law does not stipulate at what age a child can be left home alone - which is problematic because you can get in grave trouble on someone else's discretion (ie. DYFS). Mainly because age is only one factor to consider when leaving a child alone at home. However, I think you are 100% correct and your ex is unwisely willing to take risks that could both impact your 13 years old if something bad happens (she will be traumatized if all doesn't turn out well) and could subject him (and/or you) to criminal prosecution, child neglect and/or endangerment, etc. if the authorities were to find out - this is especially risk given the fact that one of the child not being cared for with adult supervision is autistic with special needs. Imagine the problems if DYFS is called!


In addition to age, other factors include,

  • maturity, their ability to care for themselves and younger children (if applicable)
  • knowing when and when NOT to open a door
  • know the rules about electrical appliances; iron, stove, microwave, toasters, etc. It's best to prepare a snack in advance that doesn't require turning on the stove.
  • what info to give out on the phone/online and to whom
  • rules; they should know them by heart (and you can place them on paper and in plain view, when necessary)
  • know their address and how/when to call 911. Put emergency numbers; hospital, fire dept, poison control, neighbor or friends number in plain view near all phones.
  • child should know to leave the house if a smoke or carbon monoxide detector goes off.
  • and make sure the child knows where you are and when you will be back (call if the plans change). Having a cell phone or pager is optimal, so that the child knows they can reach you at a moments notice.
  • in addition to knowledge of the above, the child needs to be able to react and not panic in an emergency situation and in this case, be ablel to take care of the 2 younger children at the same time, one of which is impaired.
  • if child also had to be responsible for others not just himself
  • how long the child is left home alone (8-10 hours is rather long, especially when considering she has to supervise the two other child this entire time)

DO keep in mind that a parent is responsible for the child's safety and security until legal age, so if something happens while parents are not home, they can be charged with a multitude of crimes depending on the circumstances.


For an interesting NJ case from a couple of weeks agi, where the oldest child was 11, click here.


Let me know if you have any other questions.



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Stephanie Joy


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