When parents get divorced and can’t agree who gets the kids, it’s up to a judge to make the ultimate decision. A new California law attempts to ensure that the child’s preference is heard in such cases, if the child wants to speak.
• Children over 14 now have right to testify in custody hearings
• Experts warn of stresses inherent in child testimony
• Most states leave child input to judge’s discretion
A Pitch for Uniformity
Children over the age of 14 must be allowed to testify in custody proceedings if they want to in California as long as a judge doesn’t rule it contrary to their interest, according to a law enacted on January 1 this year. Children under 14 can testify at the court’s discretion, and when barred from testifying children must be given an alternate way to make their preference heard.
The new law is the result of a state Supreme Court ruling from 2007, which struck down local Contra Costa County laws that allowed only written testimony in family law cases, and barred cross examination except in unusual circumstances. Following the ruling, the court formed a task force to conduct a two-year review of how litigants were treated in family law cases statewide. Among other findings, the final report found that methods for interviewing children to determine their preference were inconsistent and often ineffective.
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Family Law Updates
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