A recent ruling by a NJ family court judge has deemed that leaving your kids unattended in a car, even for a short period of time, may count as child abuse or neglect. In a case which dates back to 2009, a New Jersey woman left her sleeping 19 month old tot in a running car for 10 minutes, while she shopped for party supplies at the Middlesex Mall.
When she returned, police had already surrounded the car, and the mother was arrested. The judge in the case ruled that leaving a child unattended in a car puts the child in unnecessary danger, with the child at risk of being involved in a kidnapping, a car theft or being left in potentially dangerous weather conditions.
The fact that the child was left for just a short period of time, and that the Middlesex Mall is considered to be in an upscale area, did not impact the ruling, as the judge said that crime happens in all areas and that a lot can happen in 10 minutes.
Currently, New Jersey’s law which defines abuse and neglect states that parents or guardians must use a minimum degree of care, and avoid situations which may put their children at risk of danger, either physically, mentally or emotionally.
This ruling is not without some grey area, however. In the ruling, the judge cited that child was at a “tender age,” which impacted the decision, but is somewhat ambiguous. Any child under the age of 18 is protected by New Jersey’s child abuse laws, but this ruling does not clearly identify what counts as a tender age, and what does not.
Also, there have been similar cases in which the parent was not charged with abuse. In one particular case, a mother left her two year old in the car to get medicine for the child – she was not found to be negligent. In the most recent case however, shopping for party supplies did not justify leaving the child in the car. So what constitutes satisfactory parameters for leaving a child alone in a car will be defined by individual courts.
If you’ve witnessed any child abuse or neglect in New Jersey, you need to act right away. Contact the experienced New Jersey family law attorneys at Team Law today for a free consultation at 1-800-TEAM-LAW or 732-388-5454.