Child Testimony in Family Court: Can and Should Children Testify at a Divorce Hearing?
Children often have the most vital information that is relevant to their parents’ divorce. But does that mean that a child testimony in family court should be included in your divorce hearing?
This article will discuss whether minors can testify in court for a divorce, whether it is in their best interests to do so, and common alternatives to child testimony.
What Happens at a Divorce Hearing?
During a divorce hearing, a judge may ask you about your basic information, residency, and how long you and your spouse have lived apart. Other questions include whether property rights need to be decided upon, whether children are involved, and about any arrangements for child support. At a final divorce hearing, the process will often involve summarizing the separation agreement and confirming that both parties agree to it.
At What Age Can a Child Testify in Court?
Many parents wonder can a minor testify in court and if their children should testify even if it is legally permissible. Children as young as three to four years old may be able to testify in court, but children this young are often too immature or emotional to be effective witnesses. In criminal cases, a child can be ordered to testify if he/she is a victim or witness to a crime. But in divorce cases that do not involve abuse or neglect, parents must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of child testimony in family court.
Effects on a Child of Testifying in Court
Having to choose between parents or testify against a parent can take a big emotional and psychological toll on a child. Parents should consider how having to testify will affect the child long-term because it is often best for the child to have a healthy relationship with both parents. Think about whether your child’s testimony is really necessary and gauge your child’s interest in testifying in court after explaining in simple terms what that means.
How a Testimony of a Child is Handled in Court
If a child is needed to testify in a divorce case, the judges will typically insist that lawyers are more restrained in their questioning than with an adult witness. Child witnesses should be treated with respect and not talked down to or unnecessarily doubted just because of their age.
Alternatives to a Child Testimony in Family Court
To avoid placing a child in the messy middle of a divorce, a judge will often speak privately with the child in court chambers rather than in open court in front of the parents. Parents are not allowed to attend this private interview, but the parents’ attorneys may be present. This is a way to solicit an honest opinion about the parents without fear of punishment. Another strategy is to have an attorney appointed to the child to speak for him/her if the child is too young or unable to personally testify.
Pursuing a Divorce in New York
If you are pursuing a divorce in New York that involves children, you need a trusted and experienced local divorce attorney on your side to ensure that children’s best interests are put first at divorce hearings. Whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce, the Alatsas Law Firm can advise you of the best ways to get a favorable outcome from your divorce and discuss with you how much your children should be involved in the proceedings.
Call us at 718-233-2903 or contact us online to learn more about what happens at divorce proceedings and how we can help.