CHILD TESTIMONY IN FAMILY LAW CASES
People going through family law litigation (or considering family law litigation) often wonder how involved their children can be in the proceedings. Many times, especially with older children, parents like to see if there is any way in which their child can appear in front of a Judge and offer testimony and other evidence. As a general rule of thumb, Judges are typically very hesitant to involve children. Their greatest fear is that involving the child in court would essentially force the child to pick which parent they prefer, which can have a lasting impact both on the child themselves and the child’s parents.
However, there are certain times when it can be beneficial for a Judge to hear testimony from children. In those cases, an attorney or party must first file a motion for child testimony. Florida law does not allow parties to bring children with them to Court without a prior Court order. If the Judge grants the motion for child testimony, the child at that time will be allowed to become a witness. When a child testifies, there are certain ground rules that Judges follow. A Judge will typically make all parties and attorneys leave the Courtroom, thereby letting the Judge and child speak in private. This allows the child to feel free to speak openly, without having one or both parents analyzing their testimony in real time.
People often ask how old a child has to be in order to testify in Court. There are no hard and fast rules regarding age of the child, but typically, a child will need to be of an age and maturity where the Judge feels they can actually express a reasonable preference. In practice, it is relatively uncommon to see children under ten years of age in the courtroom; however, every issue of child testimony is taken on a case-by-case basis by the Judge.