Court Interviews of Children in Family Law Cases in Arizona
Rule 12, Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure (ARFLP), permits court interviews of minor children to if certain requirements are satisfied. In relevant text, Rule 12 states:
[o]n motion of any party, or its own motion, the court may, in its discretion, conduct an in camera interview with a minor child who is the subject of a custody or parenting time dispute, to ascertain the child's wishes as to the child's custodian and as to parenting time. The interview may be conducted at any stage of the proceeding and shall be recorded by a court reporter or any electronic medium that is retrievable in perceivable form. The record of the interview may be sealed, in whole or in part, based upon good cause and after considering the best interests of the child. The parties may stipulate that the record of the interview shall not be provided to the parties or that the interview may be conducted off the record.
In part, Rule 12 is based on Arizona Revised Statutes ? 25-405 which allows for an in camera interview of a child to ascertain the child's wishes as to the child's custodian and as to parenting time. A record of the proceeding will be kept to ensure the integrity of the process, to allow for rebuttal information in appropriate cases, and to provide for appropriate appellate review. The definition of "record" is derived from A.R.S. ? 25-1010(E).
Although Rule 12 is silent, a presiding judge will be apprehensive in allowing an interview of a minor child of exceptionally young age. Although each case is particular, as a general rule, a judge will not grant an interview of a minor child pursuant to Rule 12 that is less than twelve (12) years of age.
Parents often fear placing a child in the middle of a heated custody dispute. However, Rule 12 does provide adequate safeguards to minimize a child's involvement while protecting a child's best interest(s). To this point, Rule 12 is clear that the interview may be sealed in whole or in part, meaning that the parties or the court can ensure that the extremely private testimony elicited from the child will not become part of the public record for review.
I generally say that it is best to remove children as far as possible from any custody or other family law dispute. However, if your child is old enough to voice a non biased opinion regarding their wishes as to custody, then Rule 12 can be of great benefit to you. However, remember that sometimes what you think your child will say is often far from the reality of the situation.
To discuss this or any other Arizona family law issue, contact the experienced Phoenix Family Law Firm of Ariano & Reppucci, PLLC.