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Children in Contested Custody Cases

Children often find themselves in the challenging midst of contentious divorces or separations involving their parents. Beyond the inevitable emotional upheaval, they are also confronted with tangible physical difficulties. One such challenge arises when they must determine which parent to reside with, provided they've reached an appropriate age for such decisions. Ultimately, a child's ideal scenario is to live harmoniously. 

Let's delve into the complexities of a custody case and its impact on the children involved. 

Contested Custody Cases Meaning

A contested custody case refers to a lawsuit over the conservatorship, possession, and financial support of a child. It is particularly for a child whose parents or guardians cannot agree on how they should resolve the case. It would typically require a hearing in court, after which the judge will rule based on the evidence supplied.

While a divorce case may start contested, it may not end as one; their lawyers can help them agree on all terms. A couple can resolve some or most of their issues through mediation and negotiation.

On the other hand, a divorce case can start uncontested but end up being contested. A couple may begin the process thinking they are on the same page. However, as their lawyers step in and they see the terms of their agreement, they realize they are wrong.

Can a Child Testify in a Custody Case Hearing?

Finding a child who wants his parents to be reunited is not strange. As such, children as young as five years old have testified in custody case hearings. However, the age at which a child can testify in a custody case hearing depends on the state.

In Maryland, for instance, the court will consider if the child is mature enough to choose rationally. Out of a desire for their parents to come back together, a child can express unrealistic preferences.

California allows children at least 14 years of age to testify in a custody case. Nevertheless, it does not mean the judge will not listen to a child younger than 14; the state permits younger children. However, the child will only be allowed to testify if the court believes testifying will be in the child's best interest.

Florida amended its Family Rules to prohibit a child from testifying unless the court determines the testimony is relevant or necessary. Meanwhile, New York allows the court to hear a child's preferences in an in-camera hearing. However, only the child's attorney and the court reporter must be present at the hearing.

Why Children Should Not Be Allowed to Testify in Contested Custody Cases

In contested custody disputes, the well-being of children is a top priority. Both parents and the legal system aim to shield children from testifying, understanding the emotional strain it places on them. Aside from affecting parents, these battles can also impact children emotionally and academically. The strain may lead to behavioral issues, school absenteeism, and mental health concerns.

Balancing contested custody cases requires a sensitive and professional approach guided by Florida's probate and family law. This ensures children's best interests are upheld, prioritizing their welfare throughout these challenging circumstances.


Attorney Samah T. Abukhodeir from The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm emphasizes the intricate challenges posed by contested custody cases. “These challenges extend beyond the couples directly involved to profoundly impact the children as well. The toll on children is particularly concerning, prompting both parents and courts to avoid their testimony whenever possible. Yet, there are instances where the court may necessitate their testimony, especially when pertinent, such as in cases involving domestic violence reports.”

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