Having Your Child Speak During Child Custody Case

Judges may want to get a child’s point of view before determining custody in NJ

When going through divorce proceedings, it’s sometimes difficult for parents to come to an agreement on child custody and visitation. While it is assumed that each parent will want what’s best for the child, they may have very different ideas about what is best. If the parents do not agree what is best for the child, the court decides based on factors such as:

  • Age, physical health and mental health of both parents
  • Ability of each parent to provide financial support for the child
  • Proximity of the parental homes to school and social activities
  • Condition and safety of the parental homes
  • Where the child has been living
  • If there is a history of any abuse or neglect against the child or the other parent
  • The child’s wishes

Evidence about these factors is often discussed in open court proceedings, but when children speak in their own child custody case, it is not usually done in open court.

Factors judges consider when before your child testifies a in custody cases in NJ

The judge or one of the parent’s attorneys may request that the child(ren) testify at a custody hearing. Usually, the judge will state a reason for interviewing or not interviewing the child(ren). The child’s age and maturity level are taken into consideration. If the child is deemed old enough and/or mature enough, the court will set up a private (in camera) interview with the child.

The judge tries to create an environment that is less intimidating than the courtroom. Judges try to ask age-appropriate questions and avoid legal jargon. Information about how judges are expected to behave when interviewing children can be found here. Typically, the judge asks the child about day-to-day activities when they reside with each parent. The judge may also consider a child’s wishes in determining custody.

Parents are not present during the interview, but their attorneys may be present. The judge will ask each parent’s attorney to submit questions to be asked during the interview. After the interview, both lawyers can request a transcript of the interview, but they cannot talk about the interview with the child and parents may not share information about the interview with anyone (including the child) without permission of the judge.

Before your child is asked to testify in a custody hearing, you should consult with a New Jersey divorce lawyer with extensive experience in child custody cases.

For more information on having your child speak during a child custody case in NJ

Attorney Steven Cytryn knows how sensitive child custody cases can be. He provides compassionate and aggressive advocacy for you during your custody and support hearings. If you’re involved in a custody case, let us help you get the best outcome for you and your children. Contact the Law Offices of Steven M. Cytryn online or at (732) 214-1103.

Steven M. Cytryn
About the Author: Steven Cytryn
Steven M. Cytryn is the Managing Member of The Law Office of Steven M. Cytryn, LLC, and primarily focuses his practice on divorce and family law matters.