(US family law) Parents often ask us, “Will my children have to testify?” Custody cases are emotionally difficult for parents going through a divorce, and they are just as emotionally challenging for the children. Many parents worry about whether their children will be called to testify. In some particularly terrible cases, a parent will actually want the judge to hear from the child about the other parent’s conduct. The general rule is that children do not testify in divorce cases. Of course, there are exceptions.
At a certain age, children are allowed to express a preference for one parent instead of the other. From ages 14-17, the court will usually grant the child’s request; from ages 11 to 13, the court only takes the request under advisement. The child is usually asked to sign an affidavit instead of testifying in court. However, some judges will want to interview the child. The interview usually takes place in the judge’s private office, so that the child is not subjected to the pressure of the courtroom. The judge (and the other attorney) will want to ensure that the child is making a voluntary choice and has not been persuaded by one parent.
In many cases, a guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the best interests of the child or children. A guardian ad litem will often interview the children, to protect the children from having to appear in court. A guardian ad litem may also want to visit the child’s home or school environment.
In every custody case, the court’s goal is to make a decision that is in the best interests of the children. If you are concerned that your divorce case might involve a custody battle, you should consult a family law attorney as soon as possible, even before a divorce is ever filed. Concerned parents should seek experience counsel.
Brad Drummond is an accomplished divorce attorney at Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC. His expertise include, but not limited to, divorce, child custody, child support, domestic partnerships, alimony payments, and adoptions. Join us on Facebook to learn more about divorce and Kitchens New Cleghorn.