Courts allow children to testify at trials, even divorce trials. However, it is generally in your child’s best interest if he or she does not testify. The main reason for avoiding your children testifying at your divorce trial is to preventing them from getting in the middle of the dispute between you and your spouse. The last thing you want your child to do is have to pick sides between parents.
If it is necessary for your child to testify, there may be other ways for your child’s voice to be heard in the custody or visitation matter without putting them on the witness stand.
Options to Relieve Your Child from the Stress of Testifying in Court
One main option to shield your child from the stress of having to testify at your divorce trial is for the judge to appoint a lawyer to represent him or her. The lawyer can relay your child’s opinions and preferences to the judge without being present in court. An attorney is usually appointed in cases when a child is too young or a judge decides that is in the child’s best interest not to testify in court.
Another alternative is for your child to speak to a court appointed child custody evaluator, an investigator, or an appointed mediator. When any of these options are used, the individual will create a report containing your child’s concerns and preferences. The report will be submitted to the judge and made available to the parents and their respective attorneys. The court will mark the report as confidential. This means the report will be sealed in the court file and cannot be kept by either party.
What to Expect If Your Child Has to Testify at Trial
In some cases, there may be no other option but to have your child testify in court. California Family Code Section 3042 allows a child 14 years or older to tell the court their preferences in a custody or visitation matter unless the court determines that it would not be in the child’s best interest. If the judge decides that your child is old enough to testify, there are different ways he or she can be heard. The judge can opt to either speak to your child in open court or privately in chambers.
If your child takes the stand in open court, both attorneys are permitted to ask questions. However, the judge will generally require the attorneys to be more restrained in their questioning then they would be when questioning a typical witness. If the judge opts to question your child in chambers, the attorneys can provide questions for the judge to ask your child in private. Parents are not allowed to be present in chambers.
Call an Experienced Central Valley Divorce Attorney
If you are going through a divorce or planning to file for divorce, it is important that you have a knowledgeable attorney fighting for your rights. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with a Central Valley divorce attorney, please call Gurjit Srai (209) 323-5558 or (559) 449-1447, or complete our online form.