When parents of minor children separate, it is difficult on everyone, especially children. When it comes to deciding custody, some parents want their children to testify in court. This can cause greater strain on the child’s well-being.
Before deciding to have your child or children testify in court, it’s important to know that the court system provides multiple services such as a custody evaluator (a license social worker who meets with the parties, the children, visits the homes, if in the county where the case is being held and provides the court with a report and recommendation). There is no charge for this service. The Court can also appoint a best interest attorney and/or privilege attorney (an attorney who advocates on behalf of what he or she believes is in the best interest of the children). The parties generally divide the cost equally or pro-rate their incomes for a best interest attorney or privilege attorney. There are factors the court considers when determining whether a case warrants either attorney. Best Interest attorneys can become very expensive.
If a party (or the court) believes that the child should speak with the Judge, the Judge has the discretion to speak to the child in the Judge’s chambers and then report back on the record with a synopsis of what was discussed.
Before deciding whether or not you should request that the Judge speaks to your child, consider this:
1. Is your child’s testimony necessary? Ask yourself tough questions including why you want your child to testify. Can your child help the judge understand the circumstances in your home and how the custody arrangement is affecting your child?
If the current situation is difficult for your child and they are mature enough to express their desires, then you may want to allow your child to testify.
If you’re only really looking to get revenge, want to embarrass the other parent or just simply want more custody time than the other parent, think twice before you allow your child to testify.
My general advice is to only allow your child to testify if there are extremely difficult circumstances which would endanger the child.
2. Think about the long-term effects on your child. Consider the long-term effects testifying will have on your child. Separation is already a traumatizing experience for most children. It is even worse if the parents engage in a bitterly-contested custody battle.
Will it be difficult for your child to testify because it will make them feel as if they are picking sides?
You need to consider how your child will feel and what it will do to your child psychologically. Remember that you want to encourage your child to have a healthy relationship with the other parent.
Allowing your child to testify will undoubtedly affect the relationship dynamic between you and your ex-spouse and your child.
How would you feel if your child were testifying against you? Would you resent your ex-spouse or your child? Also try and determine why your child is expressing an interest in testifying. Take some time to talk with your child and ask tough questions before making a final decision.
Before deciding to have your child testify, please speak to an attorney about other options that may be better suited for you and your child.