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Will my child have a say in custody?

Custody and visitation disputes can be enormously upsetting for the child involved. Some parents lose sight of this when they are battling in court over who will get custody. 

Kids in this situation cannot control the decisions their parents make, but they could have some say in their living situation. Child preference can be an important factor that courts consider when determining custody, but there are strict rules and guidelines in place when it comes to a child's participation and testimony in family court. 

Not all children can or will participate

A child must indicate that he or she wishes to address the court; he or she cannot be made to testify. A child must also be old enough and of sufficient capacity to testify in family court regarding custody matters. Typically, if a child is at least 14 years old, the courts will hear his or her testimony.

However, in any case where testifying would not be in the child's best interests or relevant to the case, the courts may not allow it.

What a child's testimony might look like

The environment in which a child testifies varies based on the details of the situation. Some might give their testimony in the courtroom, others will not. Parents and their attorneys may or may not be present for the testimony; this will depend on whether their presence would affect a child's ability to make open and honest statements.

How parents can help their child

Parents should not coach, threaten or manipulate a child regarding his or her testimony. Doing so not only runs the risk of hurting a child, it can also threaten a parent's case. It is also important to remember that a child's preference is not the only factor courts will consider in custody and visitation matters.

Above all, mothers and fathers should support their child and his or her decision, and remind a child that their love is not conditional and will not be swayed by the court process. 

If you have questions or concerns regarding your child's preference or testimony, then discussing the situation with your attorney can help you avoid costly missteps and protect your rights and your child's well-being.

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Evans Family Law
5150 E Pacific Coast Hwy
STE 200
Long Beach, CA 90804-3399

Phone: 562-666-2692
Fax: 562-685-0111
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