Family and Criminal Law Blog

Monday, October 22, 2018

Free Range Parenting and the Law

Is free range parenting legal in Texas?

Parenting is hard, and one of the first things that new parents learn is that everyone has an opinion about it.  There are many parenting styles and no one way is correct.  As if parents do not already have a hard enough job, parents today can potentially face criminal charges for adopting certain parenting styles.  One of the most controversial parenting movements is that of “free-range parenting.”  Below, our Midland, Texas family law lawyers explore the basics of free range parenting and its legality.

What is free range parenting?

Free range parenting is a term coined to describe a parenting style that offers children less supervision, and more autonomy.  Free range parenting supporters believe that by allowing children more freedom, the child gains a greater sense of independence and self-sufficiency.  However, several states and child welfare agencies have adopted the belief that free range parenting amounts to negligence.

Laws Regarding Free Range Parenting

Three years ago, a Maryland mother found herself in the news when she and her husband were charged with child neglect for allowing their two children, six and 10, to walk home from the park alone.  A fierce and still ongoing debate as to the legality of free range parenting emerged. 

Utah recently took the step of signing a law that sanctions free range parenting.  The law states that it will not be considered a crime to allow your child to play unsupervised in a park or walk home alone.  In light of Utah’s law, it is possible that other states could soon take action.

Currently, the state of Texas has not passed a law specifically outlawing or giving the nod to free range parenting.  The state does have several statutes of relevance to the issue.  For example, in Texas it is illegal to leave a child under the age of seven in the car without someone at least 14 years of age. Further, it is illegal in the state to leave a child under the age of 15 in any place or any circumstance that could expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm.  

Parents today will want to stay abreast of the changing legal landscape when it comes to parenting laws.  Texas parents that wish to allow their children some freedom to navigate public places alone should do so with caution as the potential exists for criminal charges.


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