If you’ve experienced the unfortunate situation of divorce, you know the many difficult stages to the court case there are. Besides the pain of the actual relationship separation, there also has to be a decision on property division and most difficult of all, child custody. If you are currently entering or involved in a divorce case with children, you might be wondering whether or not your child(ren) can testify in court in order to shift the custody ruling.
Can my Child Testify?
There is no clear-cut answer for this question. The answer depends on the state the divorce is taking place in, the exceptions the judge will make, and the age/intelligence/understanding of the child(ren). For instance, Florida has a rule regarding family law cases that says children cannot attend or be a witness at a hearing unless the court actually entered an order that allows the child to attend. In these cases, no child should even be in the courtroom, let alone testifying as to which parent is better or which house she’d like to live in. However, as every case is different, the judge can always make an exception on a case-by-case occassion. In the cases where an exception is made, or an order for the child’s testimony is made, the judge will then base his decision on the intelligence level of the child, his or her understanding of the weight of their decision, and the age of the child. In many divorce cases, there must be a unique and good reason for the child to be asked to testify.
Guardian ad Litem’s Role
Because children are rarely given the opportunity to testify in their parents’ child custody case, the courts bring in what is known as a Guardian ad Litem. The GAL’s sole purpose is to guide the court through the decision of what is in the child’s best interest. The child can talk directly with the GAL, and the GAL often visits the home(s) of the child. Then, the GAL can act as the advocate of the child and inform the court on the best interest of the child without needing to cause any unnecessary trauma for the child by making them testify in front of their parents.
If you are entering or involved in a child custody case, give us a call today. Having an experienced attorney on your side helps you better navigate the complicated web of divorce.