Can Children Testify During Divorce Proceedings?
Family law cases tend to take an emotional toll on those involved. This is especially true for children, who may not fully grasp the implications of divorce or child custody proceedings. To help protect children from being exposed to the stresses of litigation, Florida law strictly limits the use of child testimony during family law proceedings. This does not mean, however, that children are never allowed to testify as to certain issues, like which parent they would prefer to live with after divorce. Read on to learn more about when child testimony is allowed in Florida family law courts.
Florida Law Limits Child Testimony
In Florida, judges will only allow a child’s testimony during divorce or child custody proceedings when there is a compelling reason to hear that testimony. Otherwise, children are not allowed to be deposed or even brought to a deposition. They can also not be subpoenaed to appear at a legal proceeding, or even attend a family law proceeding without a court order. The only way to overcome this presumption against allowing a child’s testimony is to file a formal request with the court. Unless a parent can provide a compelling reason for a child’s testimony, however, his or her petition will most likely be rejected.
When are Children Allowed to Testify?
Courts look at a variety of factors when determining how to divide things like time-sharing and parental responsibility, all of which are aimed at coming up with an arrangement that is in a child’s best interests. One of these factors is the preference of the child involved. However, courts are only willing to use a child’s testimony when making these determinations if the child in question:
- Understands the implications of his or her decision;
- Is capable of making a meaningful decision; and
- Is mature enough to express a reasonable preference.
Ultimately whether a child is able to state his or her preference (for a time-sharing arrangement) is solely in the hands of the judge overseeing the case.
What are In-Camera Interviews?
If a court decides to allow a child’s testimony in a divorce or child custody matter, it can either decide to hear that testimony in open court or to conduct an in-camera interview. Most judges opt for the latter, which are conducted in a judge’s chambers and only in the presence of the child’s parents, the judge, and a court reporter. For this reason, they are considered far less stressful for children. During their testimony, children can give an opinion on their living preference, describe their relationship with their parents, and discuss other issues that may have a bearing on a child custody decision.
Contact an Experienced Florida Child Custody Lawyer
To learn more about the types of evidence that you can use during your own divorce proceedings, as well as the kinds of legal protections in place for your child, please call dedicated Fort Lauderdale child custody attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 today. You can also reach us via online message.