What is the legal age to leave a child at home in New Zealand?

According to the New Zealand Government website and from the Legal rights from children’s commissioner website. It’s illegal to leave your child at home alone if they’re under 14. If you leave them at home, you need to make sure they are safely supervised.

You can leave children under 14 at home if they’re:

  • supervised by a responsible person (who is at least 14)
  • safe
  • not left for a long time.
  • You need to judge if the situation is safe and reasonable — for example, it may be okay to leave your child with someone who is 14 for a few hours, but not for a few days.

If you do not make safe arrangements you can be fined up to $2000 under the Summary Offences Act 1981. Link below. 

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1981/0113/latest/DLM53535.html

Other questions that you might want to know.

  1. Who to choose to leave your child with? 

The person you get to look after your child needs to be at least 14 and able to give reasonable supervision and care. They must be mature and confident to look after a child. Make sure they can get help if they need it — for example, that they have someone to call in an emergency.

  1. What age can your teenager choose to leave home? 

At age 16 a young person can leave home without their parents’ consent, as long as they move into a safe environment.  Oranga Tamariki can send the young person home if they believe they are at risk. 

  1. What age can a teenager start work? 

From age 16 a young person can start full-time work and earn minimum wage or the starting out wage – see the NZ at Work webpage for more details.

  1. What age can a child leave school? 

At 16 a young person can leave school or be expelled from school.

  1. What age can a child choose which parent to live with? 

At age 16 a young person can usually decide which parent to live with if their parents are separated, and decide whether/when to visit the other parent.

  1. What age can a child get married or enter into a civil union with parents’ consent? Age 16. 
  2. What age can a child or young person be held criminally responsible?
  • A child under the age of 10 cannot be charged with a criminal offence.
  • A child aged 10 or 11 cannot be prosecuted for a criminal offence, except for the offences of murder and manslaughter.
  • A child aged 12 or 13 can be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter and can also be prosecuted for other very serious criminal offences (e.g. robbery with another person.  This is called “aggravated robbery”).
  • A young person between the ages of 14 and 18 can be brought before the Youth Court on criminal charges. If the charges are very serious they can be transferred to the adult court for trial or sentencing.
  • A person who is 18 or older is currently dealt with as an adult in the District Court or the High Court.
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