Regular readers of our Orange County family law blog will no doubt recall a recent post about children testifying in court during their parents’ divorce. In California, children who are at least 14 years old have the right to have their preferences known by the court. This does not mean that all Orange County family law judges will allow a 14 year old to testify in court. A court may appoint an attorney for a child and learn the child’s preferences from the attorney.
A pair of attorneys recently wrote an article in the ABA Journal in which they shared some of their own experiences as young participants in their own parents’ divorces.
Neither Lisa Strohman nor Jude Egan believes that children should be routinely asked to be a part of child custody disputes in divorce. But the lawyers acknowledge that there are times when it’s unavoidable – and even “an empowering exercise” in situations in which parents have been so wrapped up in their own feelings that they’ve overlooked the impact of divorce on their children.
“The dark side of the teen courthouse visit,” Strohman and Egan write, can be “anxious, self-conscious or depressed kids” shutting down or acting out in the days before and after court dates.
Minimizing the negative
They note that judges and family law attorneys can help minimize the negative impact on teens by paying closer attention to “not only . . . what young adults say they want but their reasons for asking for it.”
Strohman and Egan write that this is especially important for attorneys for children, “who may find themselves advocating for a child’s wishes over their interests.”
Ultimately, they say, when courts issue child custody orders, they should incorporate the voices of the children affected, and “always encourage a strong relationship with each parent.”
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