Parents are understandably concerned with protecting their children, especially during a life-changing time such as divorce. As such, many may be concerned about the extent to which kids are included in child custody proceedings when custody is being contested. While children are not always interviewed by the judge, they may be in some cases. Here is some information about what to expect in Maryland cases where a judge requests to speak with children.
What topics might a judge want to discuss with children?
Judges aim to ask children non-threatening questions that provide insight into their emotional state and well-being. For example, they may ask what they enjoy doing, what their personality is like and other questions to get to know the child. After that, they will often ask how their parents’ divorce has been for them, which opens a more empathetic dialogue. Finally, they will ask more specific questions on how things are going with each parent, attempting to gather information on whether there are concerns in either household.
How and when would a judge speak to children?
If a judge opts to interview children as part of a custody case, it will most likely be done in the judge’s chambers. Only the judge, court reporter and guardian ad litem will be present at this in-camera interview. This is less intimidating for children than discussing custody in open court in front of a larger group. Often, judges will also aim to speak with children after they have had recent experience living with each parent on their own. This can help a child clarify their experiences, as they often can have difficulty distinguishing between their experience with different parents when everyone is in the same household.
Child custody cases are often filled with stress and emotion, and instances where the judge will be speaking directly to the children involved can add even more of each into the equation. Parents who are facing these situations could benefit from reaching out to an experienced family law attorney for guidance both before and during the process. Adequate legal support can help ease some of the tension during these trying times while also increasing the odds of achieving one’s desired outcome.