According to California Rule 5.250, children’s participation in family court is determined on a case-by-case basis. Children are not required to participate in family court; however, they are not prohibited from participating either. If a child wants to participate, the court will take that and the measures required for protection of the child into consideration. If a child wants to address the court, the child’s counsel, an evaluator, an investigator and a counselor recommending child custody must provide the court with any information they have.
If the child is at least 14 years old, they must be heard by the court unless the court feels that this would not be in the child’s best interest. The reason for stopping the child from testifying must be recorded. A number of things go into determining if a child addressing the court is in their best interests, including if the child has the capacity to make an informed decision regarding who will have custody and visitation and if the child understands the testimony. Other guidelines may also apply.
If the court does decide to take a child’s testimony, they must continue to protect the child from such things as embarrassment and harassment. It is also required to restrict repetition of questions where repetition is unnecessary, and any questions must be asked in a way that the child will be able to understand and answer.
When a mother and father are in family court to handle questions of custody and visitation, their main goal may be to protect the children. If a child wants to provide their testimony, it is up to the court to determine if that is the right choice. By working with a family court lawyer, a parent may be able to determine if it is best for the child to be involved in the proceedings.