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Can children testify in divorce?

Divorce dramatically affects the whole family, and this includes the children. Kids often have very adamant opinions about the entire proceeding. In many cases, they also have a clear preference for which parent they want to live with the majority of the time.

This naturally raises the question, “Can kids testify in court about which parent they want to have primary custody?”

In Washington, the answer to this question is nearly always “No.” In rare circumstances, a family law judge might have a private interview with the child in the judge’s chamber, but this is the exception to the rule.

Why Isn’t Child Testimony Allowed?

As an article in the Huffington Post points out, putting a child on the stand to testify for or against one parent is often a traumatic experience for the child.

Keep in mind that children share personality traits and characteristics with both their mothers and their fathers, so it can be psychologically damaging for them to be asked to pick sides.

In addition, having a child testify can be damaging to the parent-child relationship. While you are divorcing your spouse, your child is not divorcing the other parent. It’s important to keep the parent-child relationship intact as much as possible.

Don’t The Wishes Of The Children Matter?

Just because the children can’t testify in court doesn’t mean their wishes and concerns are unimportant. On the contrary, the court places a strong emphasis on resolving divorce-related matters in a way that protects the children’s best interests.

The children’s preferences and wishes are typically communicated to the judge through one of the following intermediaries:

  • A guardian ad litem
  • A parenting evaluator
  • A child specialist

To learn more about the divorce process in Washington, or for tips on making child custody litigation easier on the children involved, talk with an attorney skilled in these types of family law matters. A lawyer can provide the detailed legal counsel you require.