Deciding if Your Child Should Testify

Taking care of children always involves difficult decisions. When there is a custody dispute between the parents, these decisions become complicated and even more problematic. Evidence to prove your side in a child custody case can be gathered from many different sources, including first-hand testimony. On some occasions, only your child has the information necessary to testify about a particular event or pattern of behavior. Deciding whether you should call your child to the stand to testify in a child custody dispute is problematic, and there are several factors to consider.

First and foremost should be the age of the child. The age is crucial for many reasons. A young child is less likely to be able to provide an accurate recounting of an incident. Any parent can tell you that a four year old child’s sense of time and ability to precisely recall the details of an event just an hour before is unreliable. On the other hand, a fourteen year old child will almost certainly have a much better memory, as well as better communication skills. An older child is also better able to understand the difference between the truth and a lie, which is essential in providing accurate testimony. In fact, to determine whether a child is actually capable of providing truthful testimony before allowing him or her to testify.

Next, parents must take into account the fact that a child will be subject to cross-examination. This means that just like any other witness, a child witness must answer questions from the attorneys for both parents. Judges are able to craft special procedures for children to make sure that they are protected from unduly harsh questioning, but this will not make the child exempt from cross-examination.

Finally, it is essential for parents to carefully consider the content and necessity of a child’s testimony. A parent must prudently deliberate over whether it is necessary to have the child testify or if the evidence can be gotten in another way, which is an inquiry best put to your attorney. Even if the child really is the only way to get a particular piece of evidence introduced into the court, it may not be necessary evidence. Children should really only be called to testify if absolutely necessary, and this is especially true when asking a child to testify against the other parent. This can be damaging to the child and the child’s relationship with the other parent, and should only be done if there is no alternative.

If you are facing a custody case, you need an attorney experienced in these matters to help you decide what type of testimony is necessary for your case. We have assisting our clients with these matters. Contact us today at 732-529-6937 for an appointment

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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