What are the guidelines for a minor’s testimony?
Often parents involved in child custody hearings will wonder if the court will consider a child’s preference when making a custody decision. A child that is fourteen or older and would like to speak to the court must get the judge to allow them to do so. They may not allow it if they find evidence that it will be against the best interest of the child. Conversely, a judge must find evidence that it is in the best interest of the child to testify if the child is under fourteen.
Thankfully, a child does not have to take the witness stand to testify. To make the experience less traumatic for the child, they can opt to give testimony in an alternative place like:
- A mediator or child custody counsellor can speak with the child witness and produce a report that presents the information the child has given to the judge and the parents of the child.
2. A Child Custody Evaluator may also interview a child and include the child’s input on the evaluation report.
3. An attorney may be appointed to the child by the court. The attorney will then gather the information and make a request on the child’s behalf regarding custody preference.
4. A child can speak directly to the judge in their chambers rather than having to testify in front of their parents and the court. A court reporter will usually be present as well to record the conversation. That record can be requested by the parents.
Does the child get to decide where they live?
Although a child is able to express their preference, they do not get to make the final decision about their living situation. Unless a child is emancipated, they do not get to choose which parent they live with. However, a judge will take a child’s preferences into account when deciding a custody arrangement. If a child is responsible and is participating in extracurricular activities, their preference will be considered more seriously than a kid who is having trouble with their grades and acting out.
The court may still want to hear from a child who is acting out because they can provide information regarding the living situation with each parent. That information may be helpful in deciding which parent is providing the best environment for the child.
How Do I Request for My Child to Testify?
You may request that your child testify if you now that they want to speak. You may inform the court through your hearing or in a motion. If a child has spoken to the Minor’s Counsel, a mediator or Child Custody Evaluator, then they must notify the court of this conversation.
If you or your child have any questions about child custody hearings and which factors impact a child custody decision, it is best to consult a family attorney to discuss your particular situation. It is always best to consult an attorney, like a family attorney Austin, TX trusts, before making big legal decisions like having your child testify.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Office of Ryan S. Dougay for their insight into child custody.