In some situations, taking the testimony of a minor child can be necessary, especially where physical or sexual abuse is involved. Those court proceedings are generally done confidentially, either in a closed courtroom or in the judge’s chambers.
However, a parent in a child custody case should think long and think twice before seeking to have a child testify in their case. For instance, in some cases, there are blended families where there are younger children of the parties’ marriage or relationship, and also older stepchildren or children of just one of the parents (hereinafter described as “the other children” in this article), all living under the same roof. I have seen parents want to call one of “the other children” to testify against the other party because the children of the relationship of the parties are too young to really do so, to make allegations that the other parent has been abusive to them and to their younger half-siblings. It becomes apparent soon enough that “the other children” have been coached to say things in a certain way in court to help the parent pushing them to testify in the first place.
It is troubling for any parent to ever put their children in such a difficult position to have to testify in court, if it is not really necessary. It is awful that any parent would coach their children to potentially lie or misstate the truth, for the sake of the parent seeking the testimony (hereinafter referred to as “bad parent”). The problem is further compounded when the other attorney representing the other parent starts questioning the child regarding his or her prior, canned responses prepared and coached by “bad parent.” At that point, the child will start looking at “bad parent” across the courtroom seeking help in how to answer unscripted, tougher questions from the other attorney. In the end, the child’s previous testimony can be found unbelievable, and potentially “bad parent’s” use of the child’s testimony backfires and hurts bad parent’s custody case, because the court has determined that “bad parent” is not a sympathetic and credible parent, but a manipulative one.
Not only can use of a child’s testimony for such purpose backfire, it can detrimentally affect the child psychologically and emotionally. Child custody disputes are generally never easy to resolve, but using child witnesses for such purposes is not right and can hurt them and your custody case.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact California Divorce Mediators at (949)553-0911 or at www.cadivorcemediators.com.