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Will the Court Interview My Child?

During a divorce proceeding, there are many things and experienced family law attorney will do to position her client favorably, argue for rulings and to work diligently to achieve an equitable outcome.  These are the things you’d expect of your attorney.

One approach that’s often asked is, “Will the court interview my child?”  This is a mixed bag, for a number of reasons.  It’s quite possible that your child is articulate and has a definite preference regarding the various issues.  However, the court is also aware that a child can potentially be manipulated (both emotionally and economically).  There are times when determinations need to be made regarding whether the child is expressing her/his actual feelings.

In a typical civil procedure, the attorneys would call witnesses and experts to testify.  In family court, it’s not uncommon for experts and third-party evaluators to testify regarding specific issues, reports and recommendations.  The risk to putting a child on the stand is that you might be surprised at what actually is said.  Sometimes this can work in your favor, but it may also work against you.

Family law judges, as well as both attorneys, understand that a child is caught in the middle during a divorce.  The world has she or he knew it is changing rapidly.  Emotionally, the child may experience natural instincts.  One of those, especially if you ever raised a teenager, is for the child to strictly consider what’s in her/his best interest.  One of the primary risks we need to consider is whether the testimony will be reliable, or whether the child is making statements to ensure she/he gets to live with the parent who might enforce less discipline or has more goodies to offer.  While these temptations may seem terrific to a child, they don’t always benefit the child in the long run.

If it’s early in the case and my client asks, “Will the court interview my child?” I have to admit that we don’t know yet.  The court isn’t required to do so.  As the facts are collected and we get a feel for what the primary issues will ultimately be, I’ll have a clearer picture as to whether or not that might happen.  Again, could it?  Yes.  Will it? Potentially.