When you are facing divorce, one of the most difficult aspects of it is thinking about how your relationship with your child will change. You likely won’t be spending as much time with them once you have a child custody order. You also may be concerned about how your soon-to-be-ex treats your child, their relationship and if your child will get a say during the custody hearing.
In North Carolina, the law has no age limit that prevents parents from allowing their children to testify during a custody hearing. However, a judge will want the child to understand the importance of telling the truth. If your child is too young for that, the judge may see your willingness to have your child testify as a lapse in your judgement.
Your child can speak to the judge about his or her preferences when it comes to custody. The judge will evaluate how mature your child is and whether he or she has good judgement when considering their testimony. Often, judges will consider a teenager’s custody preferences, but that doesn’t mean they will set custody based on that.
Children also can testify as witnesses to specific events. So, in cases where custody is in dispute, especially over concerns of physical, verbal or emotional abuse, a child’s testimony may help establish those issues.
You always should consult your family law attorney about whether your child should testify to their child custody preferences or in a child custody hearing. Your attorney can assess how the judge might evaluate your child’s testimony, if that testimony is essential or if it would be better to have the custody hearing without it.
The goal of a child custody hearing is that your child’s best interests are considered. Most often, that will lead to a joint custody agreement, and as they get older, your children may have more of a say about which parent they will be spending more time with.