Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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A child testifying in child custody dispute may cause trauma

When divorcing couples cannot agree on matters related to child custody, even after mediation, they may need to resolve the issue through litigation. While a litigated child custody dispute is often an experience that is traumatizing for both parents, it can also leave a mark on the children. Massachusetts parents who are thinking of allowing a child to testify in court may want to carefully consider such a decision.

It is wise to consider whether expecting your child to testify will be in the child's best interest. Is the child's testimony really necessary? A parent may want to be sure that it is not a way of taking revenge on the other parent. Children who have to testify may feel that they are expected to choose one parent over another, and the psychological consequences can be devastating for a child. The effects are not always immediately apparent and may only influence a child in years to come.

The different jurisdictions may have varied rules about children testifying in child custody cases. The age and maturity of the child will commonly determine whether testimony will be allowed. In some courts, a judge would have a private conversation with a child, or he or she may allow a video deposition of the child's testimony.

Massachusetts parents may want to consider retaining the services of an experienced family law attorney to obtain knowledge of the state laws related to a child's testimony in child custody litigation. A lawyer may be able to suggest other routes of resolving child custody disputes. Together, a parent and his or her lawyer may find a way to best protect the interests of the children.

Source: huffingtonpost.com, "Divorce Confidential: Child Testimony in Divorce Proceedings", Caroline Choi, Jan. 29, 2015

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