In Illinois family law cases, the terms “child custody” and “visitation” are not referred to as “allocation of parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” When divorcing parents cannot agree on an arrangement for dividing parental responsibilities and parenting time, the court may need to intervene. Custody-related legal proceedings can be stressful for both the parents and the children. If you are in a legal dispute with your child’s other parent, you may have concerns about your child’s involvement in the case. Child testimonies are sometimes, but not always, used in Illinois child custody disputes. Fortunately, Illinois courts have several methods for conducting child interviews in a way that minimizes the stress on the child.
Will My Child Be Put on the Witness Stand?
If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree upon a parenting arrangement, a judge will be tasked with making a custody determination that serves the child’s best interests. You may wonder whether this means that your child will be forced to testify in court. Typically, children are not required to testify in court; however, the judge may use a child interview to gather information regarding a custody case.
Because court hearings can be very overwhelming and frightening for children, Illinois courts do everything possible to gather children’s testimonies in a child-friendly way. Rarely are children placed on the witness stand. If the judge wishes to hear the child’s testimony in a custody case, he or she will most likely speak to the child privately in the judge’s chambers. The judge may ask the child questions about his or her thoughts, feelings, and preferences. Unless otherwise agreed upon, the parents’ respective attorneys will typically be present for the child interview. A court reporter will transcribe the child’s testimony word-for-word so that this testimony can be used in future child custody hearings.
What if a Parent Attempts to Manipulate a Child’s Testimony?
Legal disputes between parents can be very hard on a child. When a parent attempts to “coach” a child or tell him or her how to answer questions in a child interview or testimony, this can be especially damaging to the child’s emotional well-being. Fortunately, judges know that some parents try to manipulate the outcome of a child custody case, and they are vigilant for signs that a child has been pressured to testify a certain way. If a parent manipulates a child’s testimony, this may be a sign that he or she does not have the child’s best interests at heart.
In some child custody disputes, a special lawyer called a “guardian ad litem” (GAL) is assigned to represent the child’s best interests. The guardian ad litem will typically conduct interviews with children, parents, other family members, doctors, therapists, teachers, and/or childcare staff as well as evaluate each parent’s home in order to form an educated recommendation regarding the outcome of the case. The GAL’s recommendations to the court are not automatically followed, but they do carry substantial weight.
Contact a Wheaton Child Custody Attorney
Whether you are considering ending your marriage, or you have already filed for divorce, a skilled DuPage County divorce lawyer at The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C. can help. We can assist you in negotiating a parenting plan with your child’s other parent, petitioning the court for parental responsibilities and parenting time, assigning a guardian ad litem to your case, and much more. Call us today at 630-462-9500 to schedule a confidential consultation.