Do Children Testify in Child Custody Disputes?

Young boy sitting at a table working on homework

Child custody conflicts put children in a position they never asked for. The two primary sources of stability and support in their world are at odds, which can be confusing and put their minds and hearts in flux. Sadly, there are times when custody cases escalate to a point where one or both parents consider calling a child to testify in a child custody dispute.

Nevada Allows for “Alternative Methods” of Procuring Child Testimony

From the outset, we must note that formal child testimony is a rare occurrence. The most common occurrence of a child appearing at a courthouse is to speak with the family court judge to discuss his or her desires. Courts have a duty to consider the desires of children who are mature enough to express themselves.

Otherwise, judges and lawyers don’t like calling children as witnesses to sit in a witness box to testify under the intense gaze of their parents. Common sense tells us that doing so is unfair, puts them through a stressful experience beyond their maturity level, is damaging to their emotional state, and can result in unreliable testimony since children don’t want to anger or hurt their parents.

Nevada has created a special process under the law for calling child witnesses in custody proceedings. This process is meant to help courts “find a balance between protecting the child, the statutory duty to consider the wishes of the child, and the probative value of the child’s input while ensuring to all parties their due process rights to challenge evidence relied upon by the court in making custody decisions.” A court can strike this balance by ordering an “alternative method” of child testimony, including:

  1. Closing the courtroom to the public or hearing the child on the record from the judge’s chambers;
  2. Weighing who should be present while the child is testifying, such as only allowing the parents’ attorneys and not the parents themselves, the child’s attorney, or solely the court reporter;
  3. The method in which the child will be questioned, whether it is from pre-prepared questions and whether cross-examination will be allowed, as well as who will ask the questions;
  4. Whether testimony will be conducted in real-time from another room via video equipment so that the child is not in the presence of everyone.

Underlying the court’s decision is protecting the child from “harassment or embarrassment and to restrict the unnecessary repetition of questions.”

Trust Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman L.L.P. to Fight for You

Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman, L.L.P. provides high-level family law representation to men and women in Nevada. Our attorneys are fully aware of the implications of child custody proceedings on children and parents. We are motivated and work tirelessly to reach resolutions that put our clients and their children in the best position to thrive. Our attorneys have over a hundred years of combined legal experience and will utilize that experience to effectively advocate for your interests. Let us help you. Call Viloria, Oliphant, Oster & Aman L.L.P. today at (775) 227-2280 to schedule an appointment or contact our office through our website.

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