When Can a Child Testify in a Florida Divorce Case?
Most Florida courts frown on attempts to involve children in divorce litigation. This includes a general prohibition against requiring a child to testify in a deposition or on the stand. It is possible, however, for a child to testify in court in certain situations, but only if specific requirements are met. To learn more about whether your child could be asked to testify during your divorce, please contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer who can advise you.
Florida Law on Child Testimony
Courts are only willing to allow a child to testify in divorce or child custody proceedings if there is a compelling reason to do so. Otherwise, children are prohibited from:
- Being deposed or brought to a deposition;
- Being subpoenaed to appear at a family law proceeding; or
- Attending any family law proceedings without a prior court order demonstrating good cause.
In determining whether good cause to hear the testimony of a minor exists, judges weigh a number of factors, including:
- Whether there is another way to bring in the evidence provided by the child at trial;
- Whether the issue in question relates to a serious matter, such as substance abuse, domestic violence, or neglect; and
- The likelihood that a child will be traumatized if asked to testify.
Finally, judges will assess the age of the child in determining whether he or she is mature enough to provide a reasoned response to the court’s queries without becoming overwhelmed.
Florida courts have discretion to hear a child’s testimony in open court. Most judges, however, opt instead to conduct in-camera interviews, which are generally considered to be less stressful for children, as they are conducted in the judge’s chambers and only in the presence of the judge, a court reporter, and the child’s parents. In fact, as long as a court reporter is present, a judge can even bar entry to a child’s parents and the parent’s attorneys.
Filing a Motion
A judge will only consider hearing a child’s testimony if one of the parents submits a petition and a formal request to the court. This petition must be delivered to the other parties in the case, at which point the judge will schedule a hearing on the motion. At the hearing, the petitioner will be required to explain the reasons why the motion should be granted, while the other party will also be given the opportunity to object to the motion. Petitioners who are unable to convince a judge that there is a compelling reason to require a child’s testimony will almost always have their petitions rejected.
Contact Our Child Custody Legal Team
To speak with an experienced child custody lawyer about protecting your child’s interest during divorce or custody proceedings, please call 954-945-7591 and a member of our legal team will help you set up a free consultation with dedicated attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. today. You can also reach our office by completing and submitting one of our brief online contact forms.