During your divorce and child custody trial, there are numerous decisions you must make. Along with dividing your assets, you must also decide your child's living arrangements, visitation schedules, and support. While you and your child custody lawyer may include your child in some of these decisions, should they testify in court at the custody hearing? The answer varies based on several things. Here are a few of these.
Your Child's Age
One of the essential factors in deciding whether or not your child testifies during the hearing is their age. While many courts do not set a minimum age for a child to testify, the court may perform tests to determine if your child understands the truth from a lie.
In most courts, the younger the child, the less weight the judge will give to their testimony. Many judges often feel that younger children are not always mature enough to make such decisions. Young children are often influenced by one parent or the other.
For example, the court may listen to the testimony of your seven or eight-year-old. Your child custody attorney will ask your child questions about where they want to live and why. While the court will listen to this testimony, the judge is more likely to give more consideration to the testimony and wishes of your sixteen-year-old.
Your Child's Maturity
A child's age and maturity level are two different things. Children grow and develop at their own pace but sometimes remain immature even as they age. Signs of immaturity may include:
- Highly sensitive
- Fear of strangers
- Blaming others
- Uncontrollable outburst of anger
- Difficulty interpreting social signs
You and your child custody lawyer must first determine if your child is mature enough to handle testifying in the custody case. You must consider if they will be able to handle being questioned by your attorney and your spouse's attorney.
Will your child be able to handle the court's decision if it does not go how they want, or will they blame themselves? This fact alone could be a reason not to put them on the stand.
Your Child's Ability to Handle Open Court
If you want your child to testify, they often must do so in open court. Not only will you be there looking at them from across the courtroom, but so will their other parent and a bunch of strangers they have never seen. While some courts will allow your child to testify in the judge's chamber, both parties must agree to this in advance.
For more info, contact a local company like Ritter & LeClere APC Attorneys At Law.