Beginning in 2012, children the age of 14 and older shall be given the right to address the Court regarding their custody and parenting plan preferences. Is this a good idea?
Historically children were not allowed to testify directly in court in Orange County, California. The Court used the vehicle of appointing Minor's Counsel to represent the Best Interests of the Child. This law would change that by allowing direct testimony by a child of sufficient age and maturity to come to court.
WHY WAIT UNTIL 2012
The Court has one year to impliment procedures to protect a child coming into court while at the same time protecting the rights of the parents. Will the child testify in open court? I certainly hope not. Will the child testify in Chambers with the Judge and a Court Reporter? This would be a better solution, but probably intimidating to the child. Will the Attorneys be allowed to cross examine the child and will there be limitations on how far they can go to get the answers they want? This is a big problem and the most important to deal with.
FAMILIES DO NOT BELONG IN COURT
The above mentioned new statute in the Family Code is a good example why families do not belong in court. There are alternatives to a litigted, in court Dissolution. Mediation allows parents to put the children first and not put them in the position of having to testify in court, whether it be in open court or in Judge's Chambers.
Collaborative Family Law includes a Child Specialist who can give a voice to the child's Best Interests as well as giving the child a safe place to talk about what is going on in their family. Parents have a support system to help facilitate communication for the best interests of the children. And the entire team supports the total family to help encourage the ongoing communication between the Parties even after the legal proceedings are finished.