Is the child’s testimony valid in custody cases?

Law Offices of Stephanie L. Mahdavi A Professional Law Corporation Child Custody

Figuring out who gets the children can be a long process for some divorcees. Sometimes disagreements can escalate to adverse legal actions where the child’s preference plays an important role. The child’s opinion can be considered in some child custody scenarios. If you have any questions about how California laws may apply to your particular divorce process, it is best you contact a Westlake Village child custody attorney.

Custody decisions by law

In the state of California, courts make custody-related decisions based on the parents’ arrangement. There are several factors the judge will take a look at such as:

  • The parents’ caregiving record
  • Parenting ability
  • Home stability
  • The child’s safety and also health
  • Presence of domestic violence or any other category of abuse
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Which parent promotes interaction between the child and ex-spouse
  • If a parent lied about their former spouse to their advantage
  • Other factors related to the child’s welfare

When is the child’s preference considered?

This generally takes place when the child is at least 14 years old. Only older children can have a solid opinion about visitation and custody rights. However, there are some instances where the court will allow children younger than 14 years of age to testify about their custodial preferences. When the judge denies a request for a child younger than 14 to testify, the judge will find other ways for the child to express his or her preference with the help of a custody evaluator.

There are times when judges allow young children to testify. Although the court may not consider a younger child’s preference when determining custody arrangements, it is always good to try. However, priority is given to the opinion of older children. The judge will also consider why the child prefers one parent over another. For instance, if the child wants to live with his dad because he is less strict, the judge may not give much weight to the opinion. Or if a child wants to stay with mom because he wants to keep going to the same school and stay close with his friends, then the judge may respect the child’s preference.

Do children testify in court?

It all depends on your legal circumstances surrounding your divorce. If the child is older and mature chances are the judge will allow him or her to testify in court. Yet the court will never force a child to testify. Once at the court, the child will only answer the questions asked by the Westlake Village child custody attorneys. If the child refuses to testify, the judge will find other ways to get the information through an evaluator or mediator. Also, the attorney representing the child may also express the child’s opinion in court. If there is a sensitive topic involved, the child can testify outside of the presence of his or her parents. However, a Westlake Village child custody attorney must always be present when the child testifies.

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