Pennsylvania parents involved in child custody disputes may be sensitive to the needs of their children, but individuals in the court system do not always have training in how to interview children about potentially difficult subjects. Now, the section of the state bar association that focuses on family law has created a video to educate professionals and others about the best approaches to questioning children in custody cases.
Lawyers, judges and families across the state will receive copies of the video, which uses real judges and child actors to demonstrate how children might best be questioned. While courts generally make efforts to ensure that both parents have access to their children unless there are extenuating circumstances like abuse, courts also attempt to determine what the child's wishes are. Interviewing a child to learn what the child prefers can be a delicate matter, and children may come away with negative experiences and a negative view of the court system if the process is not handled well.
This negativity is not necessarily the fault of the legal professionals because many of them have not been trained in how to elicit information from young children in a way that does not create additional stress. The new video is designed to address that by demonstrating various approaches and language that judges can use.
Parents and others involved in child custody cases should make the child's needs and wants a priority as they decide things, including how visitation will be split and where the child will live. Lawyers can assist in negotiations between parents, but in some circumstances, a case still must go before a judge. Sometimes this may simply be because parents have different views as to what is in the child's best interests.
Source: CBS Philadelphia, "Instructional Video Aims To Ease Strain On Children In Custody Battles", Pat Loeb, July 11, 2014