This is a very qualified ‘’Yes’’. There is no law in any state strictly prohibiting a parent to live with their child inside an RV. Especially today, with RV campers being more like mobile apartments, it is completely possible to live in an RV with a child with zero issues.
But, there might be other issues following a boondocking lifestyle on which Child Protective Services won’t look as kindly as the living arrangement itself. There are five things that you must supply to your child regardless of where and how you are living:
Additionally, there might be individual arrangements that would prevent you from such a lifestyle. One of the most frequent examples is co-parenting with a former spouse, where you might now be allowed to keep your child living inside an RV.
Finally, some states and municipalities forbid long-term camping, including on private land, in anything that doesn’t have a solid foundation regardless of the luxury that is inside. In those cases, the provisions of that law would clash with education accessibility for the child, which might prove to be a problem.
Difficulties of Boondocking with Children
It is not easy raising children in general. Aside from love and care, which take time, there are quite a number of material needs that each child requires for proper growth and development. And this development is exactly what any institution will look for when testing if any circumstance is acceptable for a child.
While it is true that most family laws in the United States, regardless of the State, are a bit convoluted, they are consistent. The most important thing as far as courts and institutions are concerned is the benefit of the child. Such will be the case when you are living in an RV and when you are in a house.
For boondockers, some benefits arise from living in an RV. Any camp or remote land will have less pollution, allow for more physical activity, and form tighter bonds between the child and the parent.
But, there are also intrinsic issues. Primarily, this relates to safety and education. If you are not in the same place, it is very difficult for your child to go to the same school all the time and this will be one of the key concerns of CPS.
Safety is also one of the major questions, as few established camps are as safe as the common US suburb. You will need to show that you have the means and ability to take care of your child and keep it safe and healthy, compared to more traditional living arrangements.
Can CPS Take Your Kids for Living from an RV?
CPS can’t take your kids away just because you are living in an RV. While you might be under more scrutiny for such a choice from the institution, there is no law stopping anyone from living full-time in an RV, which includes children.
If you are providing a good home and taking care of your child’s needs there will be no reason for anyone to prevent you to do so as you see fit. If the child is healthy, happy, and safe, that is all the courts care about.
The reason for the scrutiny in question is obvious. Compared to regular houses, or even manufactured homes that are permanently parked on a property, RVs don’t have the same standards when it comes to permanent living.
Namely, even the big Type A recreational vehicles are not really designed with permanent living in mind. These can have bathrooms, separated kitchens, and even multiple bedrooms; type A RVs are usually adapted from commercial or school buses. These vehicles can be up to 400 sq. feet in living space.
But, you will need to make sure that all of the requirements are met and that you can show that to anyone that asks. Solving issues like safety, health, nutrition, and education will be crucial and should be something you think about before you move your child to live with you in an RV.
Child Safety Needs
The safety of your child should be the top priority for any parent. But, when you are planning to have an unorthodox living choice you will need to consider how your situation will be viewed from the position of CPS or some other institution or even the rest of the family.
For this example, we are assuming that there is no violence in the household or a history of violence and abuse, which is the most common reason for CPS taking away children. Also, there should be enough common sense not to park your RV in doggy areas where strangers could harm them.
Being in a good area with a good community would be a major factor for CPS accepting your living arrangement as good for the child. If you have neighbors, make sure you meet them and have a chat about how they are living in their RV. Maybe they even have a child that is your kid’s age, which would make the situation even better.
Once safety from people is solved, take care of safety from objects. Especially if you have a very young child, preventing access to electrical installations, tools, and especially the driving mechanism of the RV should be taken care of before you move in the child.
There are three parts of what can be considered ‘’health’’, both when it comes to individuals and when it comes to caring for a child:
- Clean and protective environment
- Access to hygiene and first aid
- Access to healthcare
Nutrition, which is also an important part has its specifics and should be regarded separately, but these three are paramount if you wish for your child to be healthy and for others to know that your child will be healthy.
Primarily, your RV should have an all-clear from any pathogens, asbestos, lead, mold, or any other thing that can harm your child’s health. The same companies that do these checks for houses can do them for RVs and you should have that paper handy with you in case an overzealous CPS agent knocks on your hydraulic door.
Further, you should have access to a bathroom and hygiene products. This bathroom should have clean warm running water. Most modern RVs have dedicated bathrooms so it shouldn't be a problem, but if yours doesn't you will need to remodel it.
Finally, your child needs to have access to primary and secondary healthcare in the relative vicinity of where you live. This doesn't mean that you necessarily need to have a hospital on the same street, but to be within an hour's drive from an ER would be a good idea.
Ensuring a good education for your child is the hardest part of living in an RV with a child. Depending on your location, you might need to drive your entire home every day to where the school is.
Some larger RV camps will have a regular school bus visiting the entrance that you can use, but those are not nearly as common as one would wish. And, if the property you are staying on isn’t on the bus route it will be very hard to change it just for one child.
All of this is assuming that you don't need and want to move frequently. In that case, keeping your kid in the same school will be a logistics nightmare. Not impossible, but would require constant planning and readjustments.
Thankfully, there are now available public online schools where your child can attend classes and get homework online. Not to mention that these services are free. The only plan there is how to stay online every day during school hours. In some areas, the connection won't be sufficient.
Finally, there is homeschooling. In most cases, this is not the best option, but if you have an affinity for teaching it can be a good solution. The only problem here is that you will need to dedicate time and that you will need to prepare your kid for the tests at the end of the year.
With the growing food prices in America, this is no longer an easy task regardless of your living arrangements. As a matter of fact, because living in an RV is considerably cheaper, you might even have an easier time providing good nutrition for your child in this case.
There are three aspects to consider when it comes to nutrition if you want to live in an RV with a child:
- Caloric intake
- Food diversity
- Food safety and preservation
The simple calorie count for most people should be an issue. With the nation having way more people who are obese than malnourished, not having too many calories is a bigger problem.
But, when it comes to food diversity, boondockers might have an issue if they don’t live near a market or at least a convenience store. Ideally, you will want your child to eat fresh produce daily which can be a problem if you are doing monthly supply runs to the store.
To solve this, it would be smart to position your RV near a farmer’s market or to have an accord with farmers if you are in some more rural areas to buy food directly. This can be both cheaper and healthier for everyone.
Lastly, the RV needs to have a fridge and ways to store food safely. Food for younger children also needs to be prepared in a clean environment, so you will need to keep your kitchen sanitary.
Separation and Custody Issues
As previously mentioned, any family court will always consider what is most beneficial for the child when making decisions. This is why in most parental separations there will be joint custody and co-parenting.
With the doctrines like the ‘’tender years’’ and similar being on the decline and considered archaic, most courts will agree that children should have both parents present as much as possible. And, if your living arrangement prevents the other parent from easily visiting or taking the children, you might be given minority custody in a separation.
Additionally, living in an RV with a child can be taken against you if the other parent doesn’t agree with that arrangement. In those cases, you will want to be able to show all of the aspects we have mentioned in this article.
Amicable negotiation is always the best solution and especially in modern times where communication is instant and the other parent can know the location of their child at any moment, having them in a luxury RV should be a problem at all.
Life in an RV Can Be Better Than in Brick and Mortar Housing
It is estimated that roughly half a million people in the US are homeless. And, with the price of housing constantly rising, it is hard to believe that those numbers will improve. Compared to that, living in an RV that has all of the amenities of a modern apartment is not only better but near perfect.
For a long time, RVs had the downside of being smaller. But, with an RV coming up to 400 sq. ft. that is becoming bigger than many of the apartments that you can find in big cities. Not to mention that even if you are constantly hooked up to power and water at an RV lot that will cost you roughly $1000.
A studio apartment in LA can go over $4000 not including HOA costs, parking, and other amenities. That makes the choice rather obvious, especially if you consider that you don’t really need to be hooked up every day and might even bank on private property for free.
Staying with your child will be a challenge, but there are also benefits. If your child needs to study for a test you can always drive away somewhere quiet and park for the night.
As a trump card, living in an RV with your child can provide a lot more experiences for the child than regular suburban living. Over the weekends, summer holidays, and especially if your child is learning online, you can move across the country and even the continent without your child ever lacking good accommodations and safety.
According to what is written in state laws across the country, living in an RV with your child is not illegal in any way. Still, before you step in this direction you should consult with a family lawyer if there would be any issues that you must deal with before you move to this lifestyle.
Go through the motions and plan the safety, health, nutrition, and education for your child as you would in any case. Once you are certain that your child will be better off living on wheels than they would be over a concrete foundation you should be set.
In the end, your duty is the well-being of your offspring. It is way better for them to live in an RV and have access to good healthcare and nutrition than to be stuffed in a multi-story building in a dense neighborhood just for the sake of appearance to the rest of the world.