Do children ever appear in court to testify in custody cases?

By John Harding
May 12, 2014
CA FAQ/Child Custody

That is very, very, very rare. Most judges and family law layers would say that the worst place you can put a child is on a witness stand in a courtroom where that child is forced to testify right in front of mom and dad. The potential for emotional damage is overwhelming and we really want to protect kids from that.

When kids are meeting with a mediator, it's in a one-on-one private meeting. Mom isn't listening in. Dad isn't listening in. Neither parent is scrutinizing the situation. Under our rules of evidence and given the fact that parties have the right to cross-examine witnesses, you don't enjoy those protections in a courtroom. That's why we're all very, very reticent to put a child on a witness stand. There are laws that allow it to happen, but those laws are very rarely applied because we are all trying to protect the children and do what's best for the children. And forcing them to testify against their parents is rarely what's best for the kids.

John Harding is the principal of the law firm of Harding & Associates in Northern California. He practices family law litigation and divorce mediation exclusively.

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May 12, 2014

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