As Pennsylvania divorce attorneys we hear from many parents who are concerned about the prospect of their child being called to testify in child custody proceedings. Most are concerned their children will be traumatized by this event.
Fortunately, we can say with some ease that the worst fears of these parents rarely come to pass, even though the child’s wishes are considered in divorce cases.
Where Your Child Would Testify
Very few children are asked to testify in open court. It’s far more common for a judge to take the child back to his or her chambers to discuss the matter there.
If the child does have to testify on the stand you should be aware this can have long-lasting mental effects. For example, it can be very difficult for a child to feel as if he or she is being disloyal to one parent by expressing a preference for the other.
Remember, a highly contentious custody battle can make divorce even tougher on kids. It may be wise to think twice before asking the judge to consider the child’s preferences.
How the Judge Weighs Your Child’s Testimony
In Pennsylvania, there is no minimum age for children to express a preference on which parent they’d like to live with, and why. Children as young as four or five have been given their chance to weigh in.
But a child’s testimony never creates an open-and-shut case, even if the child is a very articulate older kid with good, solid reasons to want to go home with the mother. Nor is a child’s testimony ever the sole deciding factor in the case.
The reason the child favors one parent over another will be considered. Whether the judge believes what your child has to say will have an impact. And all the other factors the judge must weigh will come into play as well.
Gaining an Edge in Your Child Custody Case
If getting the child to testify is not the best way to give yourself an edge in a custody case, what is?
There are many ways, but in general we counsel our parents to focus on communicating what makes them a great parent (rather than what makes the other parent a bad one). Focusing on positive qualities and being able to provide concrete proof of your involvement in a child’s life goes a long way towards helping the judge make a decision in your favor.
Keep in mind that gaining sole physical and legal custody of a child is rare in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania courts strongly favor joint custody arrangements. Unless you can prove the other parent is unfit, he or she is going to have the right to be involved in your child’s life in some way. Thus, there may not even be good reason to bring your child into court at all.
See also: Types of Child Custody in Pennsylvania.
Have more questions about child custody cases? Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. You shouldn’t face any issue of divorce or custody alone. You need a qualified family attorney on your side.