Can my child testify at the custody hearing, or talk to the judge?
Children can testify in court, but usually they do not. Sometimes the judge will speak to the child in private.
Children can testify at custody hearings, but it does not happen very often. A child must be "competent" to testify. This means that the child must understand the difference between the truth and a lie, and must promise to tell the truth in court.
Even if a child is competent to testify, children do not testify at custody hearings very often because most parents and attorneys think it would be too difficult for a child to testify in court in a custody case. However, sometimes the child can speak privately to the judge.
There is an Indiana law that allows the judge to speak to a child privately to see what the child's wishes are in a custody or visitation case. Courts can consider the wishes of a child when deciding custody, especially if the child is at least 14 years old. One way for the court to find out what the child wants is for the judge to speak to the child. Usually, one of the parents (or the parent's attorney) will ask the court to speak with the child privately. This is sometimes called an "in-camera interview." The court then decides whether or not to speak to the child.
No. The judge usually talks to the child alone. Sometimes the judge might allow the parties' attorneys to be there, but usually it is just the judge and the child.
No, but the judge will consider the child's wishes. The judge will consider the child's wishes even more if the child is at least 14 years old.
The judge cannot make a custody decision based only on what the child tells the judge; the judge must consider other factors also.
Last revised: 8-2003
LSC Code: 1310100