Can My Children Testify During My Divorce?
One of the most difficult aspects of divorce for couples with children is coming up with a child custody arrangement. In many cases, the parties are able to work out a compromise and do not need court intervention, while in others, a child’s parents may ask the court to leave the issue up to the children in question. However, most family law judges in Florida try to keep children out of custody disputes and also impose specific requirements when they do permit child testimony. If you believe that your child’s testimony is crucial in your own case, or if your spouse is attempting to force your child to testify in court, it is critical to contact an experienced child custody lawyer who can ensure that your child’s interests are protected.
Filing a Motion
If a parent believes that a compelling reason exists for bringing a child to court to testify on a custody matter, he or she must file a motion with the court asking permission to do so. These motions should be filed as soon as possible, as courts usually conduct a separate hearing on the issue before scheduling a trial. Unless the motion is granted, Florida law specifically prohibits parents form bringing a child to a deposition or family law proceeding.
When determining whether this type of motion will be granted, family law judges usually weigh the need for the testimony and the gravity of the issues at hand against the emotional trauma that testifying in a court setting might cause. This analysis requires an assessment of a number of factors, including the child’s age. Generally, the older a child is, the more likely a court will be to permit him or her to testify in a child custody proceeding. This is largely due to the fact that older children are often deemed to be of sufficient maturity to understand the nature of the proceedings and to have an opinion based on reasonable factors. Still, even in these cases, courts usually order an in camera hearing where only the judge and a court reporter are present, rather than requiring the child to testify in open court, as a means of avoiding the placement of undue pressure on the minor.
Courts will also allow the nature and importance of the issue in question to guide their determination. For instance, relatively minor issues, such as whether one parent disparaged the other in their child’s presence will carry much less weight with a judge than will accusations of domestic violence, substance abuse, or child endangerment.
Finally, a judge will only ask a child to testify in this type of proceeding if there is no other way of obtaining the evidence, such as an investigation by a social worker, a home study, or interviews with a psychologist.
Schedule a One-on-One Meeting with a Dedicated Attorney
Asking a child to testify in a child proceeding is a matter that should not be taken lightly, so before you file your own motion on this issue, please contact dedicated Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 today for a free case evaluation.