Can My Child Talk to the Judge During Our Family Law Case?

Young mom with her daugher at psychologist consultation

Under New Jersey Court Rule 5:8-6, a judge may speak with a child privately during a child custody dispute. This is commonly referred to as an in camera interview. If the judge decides to conduct this interview, the attorneys for both parents may submit written questions ahead of the interview for the judge to ask the child. Following the interview, the parents are entitled to a written transcript of the interview, but neither parent may talk to the child about the interview unless the court grants permission for him or her to do so. Therefore, while a judge has the discretion to speak with a child during a child custody case, he or she must do so according to strict rules; the parties also are held to these rules.

The purpose of these detailed rules for an in camera interview is for the child to speak openly and honestly about certain aspects of the custody case. Testifying in open court in front of his or her parents may be frightening to a child, and because the parents are present, the child may not tell the entire truth for fear of disappointing or angering a parent. As a result, the child may make conflicting statements to each parent, in an attempt to tell the parent what he or she wants to hear.

In camera interviews do not occur in most custody cases. The court is more likely to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL), who is a neutral third party with expertise in children and family law cases. The GAL typically interviews all parties, including the children, and must make recommendations that he or she believes is in the children’s best interests. It is the GAL’s job to speak on behalf of the children and let all parties know about any important things that the children have said about their parents or other relevant issues. 

The family law attorneys at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, know how to handle all aspects of Washington child custody and family law cases, no matter the complexity of the issues involved. Our attorneys are involved in these types of cases as attorneys, mediators, or as guardians ad litem. We are here to help and give you the advice that you need. Contact our office by e-mailing us at info@argentinolaw.com or call us at (973) 868-0958 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family law attorneys today.

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