No matter a client’s profession or current stage in life, if children are involved in a family law dispute, the client’s goal is to ensure that their children are well protected and cared for. Child custody is the parents’ number one priority as it is their responsibility to make sure their children are receiving the best possible care.
If you are considering the dissolution of your marriage, be proactive and contact a Child Custody Lawyer to assure that your child will be well taken care of and protected in their best interest.
When a minor is involved in a dissolution of marriage, it is also the court’s main priority to tend to the children’s best interest. In a judge’s decision-making, important factors include the child’s health, age, emotional ties to the parent, ties to their school and community, and any preexisting history of neglect or abuse. In making this important decision in the courts, the judge must take into consideration all relevant factors, including the wishes of the child’s parents, the wishes of the child, the interrelationship and interactions with their siblings, parents, and other people that are greatly affected by the child’s best interests.
The court’s primary question during custody/visitation litigation is: who would be a better parent for this child to live with? This question can only be answered reasonably when data is collected from all parties, including the children, that refers to the aspects of the case.
The state of California is one of thirty-nine that considers a child’s preference (of sufficient maturity and age) as a factor in determining the child’s best interest. The main issue in a child custody proceeding is whether one or both parents will be granted custody of the child and seen as “best fit.”
While the child’s preference matters, it is ultimately up to the general consideration made by the judge to determine the child’s best interest and welfare.
The judge will conduct an in-camera interview with the child to initiate the custody process. An in-camera interview consists of a judge conversing with the child in their chambers. There are no other persons present during the interview other than the judge, the child’s attorney, and a court reporter who will record the entire exchange. What is discussed during the in-camera interview is to be confidential. Neither the parents nor their respective attorneys are allowed to know what was said between the judge and the child. The interview transcript will only be presented in the appellate court should the judge’s decision be appealed.
Although in some jurisdictions, the judge is not permitted to hold a private in-camera interview during a child custody proceeding. A party may wave or consent objections to the interview. In this case, the judge may interview the child and use the information gathered in the in-camera interview as a basis for their order.
Each judge has their own individual style of conducting the in-camera interview with the child. The judge should only ask age-appropriate questions that the child will be capable of comprehending and answering to the best of their ability. Most of the time, legal jargon is excluded.
The judge must ask open-ended, non-leading questions during the in-camera interview. Any other method to frame questions can greatly skew the data collected and result in questionable responses regarding validity. The questions also must assist in eliciting the information needed to make a discerning decision. The judge might ask questions such as:
“Can you tell me about your mother?”
“Can you tell me about your father?”
“What are the things you like and don’t like about your mother?”
“What are the things you like and don’t like about your father?”
It is important to include balance within the question about each parent to not lead the child in a certain direction of either parent.
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