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Should your child testify in your custody dispute?

If you and your child’s other parent disagree about where and with whom your child should live, you may find that you need to litigate your custody dispute. Many parents are able to negotiate the terms of a child custody agreement with the aid of their attorneys and perhaps a mediator. However, other parents disagree so fundamentally that negotiation and mediation are not viable approaches for their situation. In these cases, it may be necessary to go to court.

While litigating a child custody dispute, you may or may not have concerns about your child being asked to testify. On the one hand, you may feel strongly that your child’s opinion should be both heard and weighed by the court. On the other hand, you may be concerned that testifying will place your child in a position that compels him or her to “choose” between you and your former romantic partner. This can be a terrible spot to place a child or a teen in, so your concerns are certainly warranted.

In the end, your situation is unique and your child’s potential testimony should be treated with consideration and in context. If your attorney believes that your child’s testimony is necessary, your child may ultimately benefit from providing that testimony. However, if your child’s testimony is unnecessary, it may be better for him or her to refrain from taking the stand.

If your child does need to testify, it may be possible for him or her to speak with a judge privately instead of being placed in a position where he or she is required to speak in open court. Private testimony may be less stressful than open testimony.

In addition, it is important to speak with your attorney about any age restrictions or other requirements that may make your child’s testimony more or less valuable and ultimately relevant in the eyes of the court.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Divorce Confidential: Child Testimony in Divorce Proceedings,” Caroline Choi, Jan. 29, 2015

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