A family court judge may hear child’s testimony

Pierre Domercq Child Custody and Visitation

Some child custody cases in California will include an opportunity for the child to directly address the court. A judge will make a decision about whether or not to allow a child to address the court on a case-by-case basis. The best interests of the child will be the most important consideration while a family court judge is making this decision.
Before a child will be allowed to voice their own opinion in court about child custody or visitation matters, a judge must obtain information that confirms that the child wishes to address the court.The judge will also consider whether the child comprehends the importance of their testimony and the capability to form an intelligent opinion on custody and visitation matters. If the child is over 14 years old, the court must hear the child’s opinion unless there is reason to believe that allowing this testimony is not in the child’s best interests.
A child who is a witness in a family law case must be given special care by the court. While the child is being questioned, the questions must be formed in a manner that is age-appropriate. The court is also required to protect the child from harassment or embarrassment that may be caused by an unnecessary repetition of questions. At some point during the questioning, the child must be allowed to voice their preference about these parenting plan matters.
A child’s testimony can be helpful in some family law cases, especially when the case involves a child who is in their teens. A parent who believes that their child would like to have the opportunity to speak to a family court judge might want to inform the court. An attorney may be able to help ensure that the child is questioned appropriately during the hearing.
Source: Judicial Council of California, “California Rules of Court – Rule 5.250. Children’s participation and testimony in family court proceedings”, accessed on Feb. 6, 2015