Will an NC judge consider a child’s opinion in custody matters?

Griffin Law, PLLC
Mar 23, 2021

If you are party to an ongoing custody dispute, you may wonder how you can speed up the process and still obtain the best possible outcome. So, when your child expresses to you that he or she would prefer to live with you for the majority of the time, you may assume you have your golden ticket.

Unfortunately, while North Carolina does allow children to testify in cases involving their own custody, the courts recommend against it in most instances. Additionally, while the state does not have age requirements for children witnesses, it does, according to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, havesituational requirements.

When children can testify as witnesses in custody cases

Per the state’s website, there are two situations in which your child may testify as a witness in his or her own custody case. In the first, your child was witness to a specific incident. Examples of incidences that may require your child’s testimony include those involving abuse, neglect or inappropriate conduct. In these cases, the judge will want to first determine that your child understands the importance of telling the truth.

In the second situation, the judge may ask your child about his or her preference. However, he or she will only do so after he or she determines that your child is of an “age of discretion” and that your child understands the severity of the situation. The judge will also want to make sure that your child has the emotional maturity to make such a hefty decision.

Be careful about requesting your child’s testimony

Though the state will allow a child’s testimony, it discourages parents from encouraging it. In fact, the state website warns that in requesting your child’s testimony, you may unwittingly cloud the judge’s view of your judgment.

Moreover, if a judge will hear your child’s testimony, he or she will likely attempt to speak to him or her “in chambers.” What this means is that the meeting will take place outside of the courtroom and in a private space separate from you, your child’s other parent and any other relevant parties.

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