NAPLES, Florida. Utah recently passed a law that legalizes “free range” parenting. Essentially, the law in Utah specifies that it isn’t neglect if a parent chooses to let a child walk home alone, explore the neighborhood on his or her own, or stay in a car while a parent shops. The new law has started a national debate and discussion about the benefits and risks of free range parenting. While the law has been passed in Utah, in other states, parents can face charges of neglect for letting young children walk alone or explore the neighborhood on their own. Different parents have diverse views about the “free range” parenting phenomenon. But what happens when you and your ex disagree about how much freedom to give your child?
For example, a mother might believe it is unsafe for her 10-year old child to walk home from school, while the father might think it perfectly acceptable. What happens if this couple gets divorced? In general, couples should try to answer some of these tough questions in the divorce agreement, especially if the child is young. At what age will the child be permitted to be left alone?
In some states, parents can face investigation from social services and police if they leave their children alone, so if you’re planning to get divorced, it is important to consider the laws in your area when making your divorce agreement. For parents who disagree with their ex’s “free range” ideals, it is also important to consider that even in Utah, there is no age listed on the “free range” parenting law. Parents have to make the determination for themselves. At the end of the day, a parent who is concerned could make a case that it is in the best interests of their child that they be supervised. Parents can provide evidence from pediatricians, teachers, or therapists to support their views.
Another concern with free range parenting laws is that poor parents often face greater scrutiny under the law when they leave their children alone. According to the Atlantic, many poor and working-class parents have no choice to leave their children alone after school, or give their children more responsibility. Utah’s law leaves it up to the courts to interpret what is neglect, and what is giving a child “developmentally appropriate” responsibilities. Research indicates that well-off parents may face fewer risks of being reported to social services for letting their children explore the world on their own. Poorer parents who ascribe to the “free range” ideology often worry that they will be reported to social services.
So, what can you do if you have concerns about when your child will receive certain responsibilities and freedoms after you divorce? Consider reaching out to the qualified Naples, Florida family lawyers at Long & Alguadich, P.L.L.C. Our firm can help you understand your rights and options and find a resolution that will be in the best interests of your child. Visit us at https://lanaples.com/ to learn more.