A First Class Way for Your Child to Testify
A first class way for your child to testify at trial? Really? Well, the thing about it is, in Arizona, judges are not going to allow a 12 year old on the stand in the middle of a bloody courtroom battlefield. Don’t despair. Your child’s voice still can be heard.
In Arizona, there isn’t a rule that prevents nor allows your child to testify at trial in a divorce (or custody) case.
However, judges like to keep children as far removed from parental conflict as possible. Given that, it makes sense that most Arizona judges will not allow a child to testify and place him or her smack dab in the middle of your conflict with your soon-to-be ex-partner.
Arizona law gives judges the power to consider the wishes of a child before making decisions about custody (legal decision-making) and parenting time. Judges, however, are not necessarily required to follow what it is a child says he or she wants. There are many reasons for this.
First and foremost, how many 12 year olds do you know who are able to make major decisions in their best interest? Yup. Not many. Most 12 year olds can’t make minor decisions in their best interest and would rather eat a candy bar than eat broccoli, right? What about 16 year olds? How many 16 year olds do you know who would rather live with the parent who is more lenient, more absent or who allows more privileges? Yeah. Most of them. Judges can see through this stuff. That is why they won’t blindly do what it is a child says he or she wants.
Having said that, a judge will still want to balance the wishes of your child against what is best for him or her. A judge can do this without requiring your child to testify by being placed on the stand. In Arizona, judges can order your child to be interviewed by a qualified court-appointed individual who has experience relating to kids. Once the interview has been complete, the interviewer will prepare a report which tells the judge what he or she and your child discussed, how your child feels about a variety of topics and potential areas of concern. If, after reading this report, you and the other parent still cannot agree on what is best for the child, you will have to go to trial and duke it out.
To be clear: In Arizona, there is a way for your child to testify (or be heard) at trial. The thing about it is, that testimony will come before the trial ever happens during a child interview (if the judge allows one). After the interview, a report will be completed for the judge to review. The judge will consider your testimony along with what your child communicated to the interviewer. The judge will consider the other parent’s testimony. The judge will look at documentary evidence.
In the end, the judge will do what he or she thinks is best for the child. You may not necessarily agree with what that is. Neither may your child.
If you feel your child’s voice needs to be heard, do it the right way. Ask the judge to have her interviewed. Keep your baby out of the drama as much as possible. Let her be a kid. If a judge sees you doing this, he or she is sure to make a mental note that you are a class act because you have NOT asked for your child to testify on the stand.