Can a Child Testify During a Custody Case
Family law proceedings involving child custody matters are always emotionally charged and anxiety-inducing. Many parents wonder if their child can express their preferences to the judge or if their child’s testimony will hold any weight during a child custody case.
Our Brandon family law attorneys at Carman, Bevington & Finegan, P.A., can explain the legality of a child’s testimony in a custody case in Florida and what options parents have to ensure their children’s voices are heard while complying with applicable state laws.
Can a Child Testify During a Custody Case in Florida?
According to Florida law, minor children cannot testify in a family law proceeding. This means that children under the age of 18 are not allowed to take a stand and testify about their preferences for custody. The only way a child can testify during a custody case in Florida is if there is a court order that establishes just cause for the child’s attendance at a family law proceeding.
However, it is important to note that these restrictions do not prevent a child’s voice from being heard in court proceedings. After all, “the reasonable preference of the child” is one of the factors considered by Florida courts in custody cases pursuant to Florida Statutes § 61.13.
Parents have options to ensure their child’s thoughts and feelings are known, even if the child cannot testify in person.
Why Does Florida Law Not Allow Minor Children to Appear in a Family Law Proceeding?
The reason behind this law is to avoid the potential for harmful effects on the child’s well-being. Children may feel pressured to say things that they believe will make one parent happy or fear that they will hurt the other parent’s feelings. Additionally, children’s memories may be unreliable or unclear due to their young ages.
Testifying in court, being pressured to take sides, and seeing conflict between parents are not considered to be in the child’s best interest, not to mention that the child’s presence at the family law proceeding could damage their relationship with one or both parents.
Children’s Testimony Through a Court-Appointed Social Investigator or Child Evaluator
One option that parents can utilize is a court-appointed social investigator or child evaluator. These professionals are trained to conduct thorough investigations into custody cases and speak with the children involved to evaluate their preferences. They will conduct interviews with all involved parties, including the children, and submit a written report to the court outlining their findings.
This report can be a helpful tool for parents, attorneys, and the judge to understand the child’s perspective without having the child testify in court. It can also help establish the child’s preference and guide the decision-making process when determining custody arrangements.
Discuss Your Options with a Brandon Family Law Attorney
While children cannot testify in a family law proceeding in Florida, there are other options for ensuring their voices are heard. As a parent, you might want to discuss your options with your attorney to ensure that your child’s thoughts and feelings are taken into consideration during a custody case. Contact Carman, Bevington & Finegan, P.A., to schedule a free case evaluation. Call 813-305-0682.