On January 1, 2011, a new California law requires divorce courts to allow a 14-year-old child or older to testify as to custody and visitation preferences, unless the court believes that the child’s in-court testimony would not be in the child’s best interests.
Previously, the family law court had discretion to allow a child to testify, but only as to custody preferences. Now, once a child is over 14 years old, the general rule is that the child may testify as to custody OR visitation, unless the court determines that testimony would not be in the child’s best interests. Note that even if the child is under 14 years old, the child can testify if the court determines he or she has the maturity and reason to do so. (CFC 3042(a), (d).) In any case, if the court allows the testimony, the court has the discretion to limit questioning to protect the best interests of the child. (CFC 3042(b).)
If the family law court determines that testimony is not in the child’s best interest, the court must state its reasons on the record. (CFC 3042(c).) If the court refuses to allow a child’s testimony but the child wishes to be heard, the court must strive to find a way to obtain the child’s input. (CFC 3042(e).)
If you are going through a divorce and have biological or adopted children from your marriage, contact a Southern California criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. In divorce proceedings, custody and visitation rights are two of the most commonly litigated issues, and appearing in court without an attorney may substantially harm your interests, especially if your ex-spouse has retained an attorney. An unrepresented party is at a great disadvantage against a party with a lawyer, so contact one as soon as possible so you can plan your case.
If you are currently in a custody battle, you will need an experienced Southern California divorce lawyer to vigorously represent you in what may be a highly emotional conflict. At Wallin & Klarich, we have helped people going through divorce proceedings, including custody conflicts, for over 30 years. Call us today at (888) 749-7428, we will be there when you call.