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Can a child testify in a custody dispute?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2023 | Family Law

During a custody dispute, the court looks at several factors before deciding between two parents. When the children are old enough to take part in the process, many parents wonder if a child can provide any formal input before the judge.

While there are few restrictions on calling a child to be a witness in the case, there are alternatives to this idea.

Designate a representative for the child

Children form opinions about parents or their living situation for many reasons, some rational while others are emotional. Consider presenting the child’s desires through a third party to give your child a voice in the case. Your child’s teacher or therapist has a relationship with the child and will keep their best interests as the priority when presenting the matter to the court. There is also the option to hire a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator or Child and Family Investigator to make recommendations to the court. These recommendations come from non-biased, in-depth interviews and investigations of all parties involved.

Record an interview with the child

There is the option to file a motion asking the judge to allow an in-camera interview. In this situation, the child goes to the Judge’s chambers and informally talks about his or her wishes. In many cases, this is less traumatizing or uncomfortable than discussing the matter in open court and facing both parents.

The child’s age, maturity and mental health should factor into a decision to have them testify in court during a custody or divorce case. Shielding them from adult issues can protect their relationship with each parent and help them transition into post-divorce arrangements.

Photo of Attorney Phillip A. Geigle