Judicial Meetings with Children in Divorce Cases

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Judicial Meetings with Children in Divorce Cases

Although it is fairly uncommon for judges to meet with children who are involved in divorce or custody cases, studies have shown that such judicial meetings may have a positive impact on the child and on the outcome of the case.

How Can a Child Benefit by Meeting with the Judge?

By meeting personally with the judge in a family law case, a child is able to provide honest feedback on issues that will have a large impact on his or her life. Without such a meeting, the parents may have unreasonable control in deciding what is best for the child.

Why Do Some Judges Favor Meetings with the Child?

Some judges favor meetings with the child because the judge is able to hear firsthand the thoughts of the child without the influence of a third parties. This can help the judge make an informed decision with various custody arrangements concerning the child. A meeting with the judge can also be considered to be a way of granting the child’s right to be heard.

Usually, judges only hear about the child’s wishes from the parents, lawyers, or family counselors who prepare written reports about their findings upon interviewing the child. Thus, the judge may make decisions about the child’s future based on consultations with these parties without ever meeting privately with the child, even though family court matters are handled with the "best interests of the child" in mind.

Why Are Some against Judicial Meetings with the Child?

Despite the apparent benefits to the child from judicial meetings, there are some who think that judges lack the training and experience in dealing with children and making a determination about their future based on an interview. Others believe that the child may not be completely honest with the judge about family matters out of loyalty to one or both parents. Still others think that since a judge is not trained in mental health or counseling, the judge is ill-equipped to determine whether the child has experienced abuse or alienation.

It has also been stated that judicial meetings with children violate due process, particularly because such interviews could cause the judge to be less objective when making a decision.

Seeking Legal Help

If you are involved in a family law matter such as divorce, custody, or visitation and you would like to obtain some legal advice regarding your options, you should consult a family law attorney.

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Last Modified: 02-27-2014 10:49 AM PST

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