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My Child’s Opinion Matters: Five Strategies for Amplifying Children’s Perspectives without Direct Testimony

In the intricate landscape of custody disputes, the main concern is the welfare of the children involved. However, while the voices of both parents echo throughout the legal proceedings, children, as parties to the matter, face hurdles in directly expressing their views in court due to evidentiary rules that often deem their statements as hearsay. So, how can children's perspectives be effectively integrated into the judicial process? There exist several alternative avenues.

Traditionally, there was a legal presumption that children under the age of ten were incompetent witnesses, but this has long been overturned. While one option is to have children testify if they are deemed competent—able to distinguish truth from falsehood—this approach is typically discouraged due to the potential emotional strain and adversarial nature of courtroom proceedings, as well as the reluctance to position children against their parents.

However, this does not mean that the child’s point of view is not important. Often times when a child is very mature and intelligent, they may understand what is happening to a degree and their feelings and thoughts are valid. They may have very clear reasoning for wanting to spend more time with a particular parent versus the other. How can you ensure their voice is valued and the judge is aware of same?

Fortunately, there are various indirect methods through which children can be heard in custody matters:

  1. Parenting Coordinators: These professionals collaborate with parents to navigate parenting time and custody issues outside of court. Although they may not directly engage with the children, parenting coordinators listen to both parents' perspectives and offer recommendations that the court can adopt.
  2. Guardian Ad Litem (GAL): GALs serve as advocates for children's best interests and conduct interviews with children, often in the presence of each parent. They compile reports that inform the court's decisions and typically involve lower costs compared to custody evaluations.
  3. Custody Evaluation: Conducted by qualified professionals, custody evaluations involve interviewing both parents and children, along with psychological assessments of the parents. These evaluators adhere to established guidelines and submit comprehensive reports to the court, albeit at a higher cost.
  4. Counselor/Therapist Involvement: If children are undergoing therapy, their therapists may convey their perspectives within the legal framework. However, there are concerns about bias if one parent dominates the therapeutic process, and issues may persist if both parents are not equally engaged.

Ultimately, the overarching objective remains the welfare of the children, and courts may consider information from these sources to inform their decisions. Empowering children to express their views through these alternative channels can foster a sense of comfort and inclusivity amidst custody proceedings, offering multiple pathways for their voices to be heard.

We trust that this discussion sheds light on the avenues available for amplifying children's voices in custody matters. This blog serves as informational content and is not intended as legal advice. If you believe your child’s opinion is important and should be valued in your court proceedings, perhaps the skilled attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. are a good fit for you. We offer legal services throughout the entire State of Indiana. 

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