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Questioning children in high-conflict custody cases

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2024 | Child Custody and Visitation

As part of high-conflict custody cases in California, judges will usually question children about their lives with their parents. While this might make parents and children weary, these interviews help judges form an opinion about the children’s lives and their relationship with each parent before reaching a final custody decision.

What happens during the interview?

The judge usually interviews the child in private in their chambers with the court reporter and the child’s guardian ad litem. The interview is also often done on camera. Most judges interview children once they have had time to live with each parent separately so that the judge can form a more informed opinion about their life with the parents. To achieve this goal, the judge will ask questions related to:

  • Who the child is, such as their interests and concerns
  • How the divorce has affected the child
  • What each parent is like and the relationship the child has with each parent
  • How the children spend their time with each parent

What does the judge learn from the interview?

Ideally, after an interview with the child, the judge should have a clearer picture of how each parent relates to the child, such as the way they nurture and support the child. The judge should also be able to notice unhealthy patterns, such as one that shows that the child is the one nurturing the parent instead.

The interview should help the judge reach a final verdict on the child custody case. For instance, the interview should reveal which parent is the one who is more truly attuned to the children’s needs and offers a nurturing environment.

The interview with the child can have a significant impact on the judge’s decision on whether to award shared custody or primary custody and visitation. This interview should show the judge how each person parents once they are alone with their child.