Laws on Children Sharing a Room

By Jayne Thompson

Updated November 30, 2019

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No matter where a person lives in the United States, it is not illegal for children to share a bedroom either at home, in a hotel room or when visiting a relative's house. This is true regardless of the children’s ages and genders. Different rules apply to foster children, however, and tenants should consider their state's overcrowding laws.

No Rules Against Bedroom Sharing

Currently, there are no federal or state laws that prevent children from sharing a bedroom. This means that children of any ageinfants, toddlers, young children and teenagersare permitted to share a room with their siblings, and parents are not prohibited from providing shared sleeping quarters for the children in their household. It’s up to the family to determine what’s best for the children in the context of their living situation.

This rule is the same regardless of the children’s ages and whether the children are the same or opposite gender. It's perfectly possible for a 5-year-old female to share a room with a 12-year-old male, for example, if the parents think this is appropriate.

Different Rules for Foster Children

The one exception is for foster children. Foster parents are required to meet certain housing standards which vary by state. Often, there’s a requirement to place opposite-sex children in different rooms. Montana, for example, requires foster parents to give opposite-sex children aged 5 and older their own sleeping quarters. Same-sex sharing is allowed.

Foster parents can also expect limits on the number of children sharing a room. In California, for example, foster parents cannot place more than two children in a bedroom. Children will need their own beds, and the space must be big enough to ensure the safety and comfort of the children.

Child Custody Arrangements After Divorce

One situation where parents often worry about room sharing is when seeking child custody as part of a divorce settlement. Here, the courts will look at the family size and the economics of the situation, such as what housing the family can afford, before deciding whether to let same or opposite-sex siblings share a bedroom. Child custody orders are made in the best interests of the child, not upon the wealth of the parents, so parents generally are not expected to provide a separate room for each dependent child.

However, a court will take the child’s safety into consideration. For example, a court may decide that allowing a toddler to share a room with a teenage sibling who has a history of violent or sexual behavior is not appropriate. Parents are expected to obey the court's order in such situations.

State Overcrowding Laws

Some states and some housing authorities have codes that regulate how many people can share a living space to prevent overcrowding. While these rules do not specifically prevent children from sharing a bedroom, they may do so indirectly.

California, for example, has informally adopted a "two-plus-one" policy, which means that no more than two people should occupy each bedroom with one additional person sleeping in the living area. So, five people could occupy a two-bedroom apartment. Parents could potentially violate this housing standard if they attempted to sleep a third child in one of the rooms.

Overcrowding laws are not the same as bedroom-sharing restrictions, however, and landlords are not permitted to discriminate against tenants based on their family size. For renters, this means the landlord has no right to force siblings to sleep apart providing the accommodation as a whole does not violate overcrowding restrictions. It's up to parents and guardians to make bedroom-sharing decisions on behalf of their family.

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