Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Should a Very Young Child Give Preference Testimony?

    Professional basketball player, Chris Bosh, has been in a custody battle over his young year old daughter with the child’s mother, Allison Mathis.  Apparently Mathis is requesting that their daughter, Trinity, (either four or five years old), testify in court. 



    Calling a child to be a witness as to their custodial preferences is always a risk.  Judges, at least in Los Angeles County, disfavor it.  It’s the Judges discretion whether to allow it, but there would generally need to be a fairly compelling reason if the child is under the age of 14.  Judges are not mental health professionals.  Since there are a number of different methods of obtaining a child’s preferences or input which does not involve his/her direct testimony in court, such as a custody evaluation, a parenting plan assessment (in Los Angeles County), or minor’s counsel, judges are typically reluctant to meet with children.  The younger the child, the more unlikely it will be that the judge will want to speak with her/him. 

    It is unclear with Mathis wanted her four/five year daughter to testify to and I don’t know the rules as to minor’s testimony in Florida.  In California, at least in Los Angeles County, I would be surprised if a judge would want to speak to a four/five year old directly.  Also, I would caution against even making this request for a child that is this age unless there are extenuating circumstances because it may reflect poorly to a judge who’s primary objective is to determine the child’s best interest.

1 comment:

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