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Can a child tell the judge which parent to live with in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2022 | Family Law

Marriage can be a contentious time. Parents often argue over which parent gets custody of the children. While some states allow a child to choose a parent to live with, that is not the case in Arizona.

Once the court establishes paternity, the court then looks at many factors to determine custody. While a child does not have the right to speak in court, the court will sometimes listen to the child’s wishes.

Factors that allow a child’s testimony

A court might listen to what the child wants, based on the following factors:

  • If the child is old enough, typically 12 years or older
  • If the court’s decision will affect the child’s psychological and emotional state
  • If the child wants to speak in court
  • If the child’s testimony is trustworthy

Courts will protect the children if they testify

Divorce proceedings are stressful for any child and can even cause health issues. Speaking in court in front of parents can be even more difficult. A judge will sometimes listen to the child away from the parents.

That way, neither parent can influence what the child says. While a court reporter will be with them in the judge’s chambers, the judge may choose to seal the interview.

A judge may decide to appoint an attorney to represent the child. The lawyer then becomes the child’s advocate. In other cases, the judge may choose instead to assign a custody evaluator to interview the child.

If the divorce is contentious enough, the judge may even assign a guardian ad litem. This person will protect the child’s interests during the divorce.