At the Barbosa Law Firm, P. C., we represent individuals involved in divorces with children, paternity suits, and petitions to establish parental rights among other family law and civil law cases. Most of the cases that involve children, defined as an individual under the age of 18, the parents or guardians of the children will always question the possibility of the children going to court and testifying in front of a judge regarding their preferences as to what parent should be their primary conservator.
In a divorce proceeding or a case involving the parent-child relationship, a parent or an attorney retained to represent the best interests of the child, the court will interview the child in private. The child must be 12 years of age or older in order for the court to interview the child. The court may interview a child under 12 years of age if the court concludes that the interview process outweighs the issues that are before the court. In Dallas County, most family court judges will use the Dallas County Family Court Services office to do the initial interview with the child outside of any other members of the family.
The court may interview a child under the age of 12 regarding child custody issues to determine the child’s wishes as to conservatorship or as to the person who shall have the exclusive right to establish the child’s primary place of residence. Sometimes, the court on its own motion may also elect to interview a child in chambers or by the Family Court Services specifically to determine the best interest of the child in respect to what parent or guardian should have the exclusive right to establish their domicile.
We also advise our clients dealing with a divorce situation or a custody situation in court that just because the court or judge performs an interview with the child does not mean or diminish the discretion of the court or the judge to make a ruling or in determining what is in the child’s best interest.
If a client chooses to proceed to a jury trial, the court may not interview the child whether in chambers or by Family Court Services regarding an issue on which a party is entitled to a jury verdict. However, most family law cases or divorce cases do not involve a verdict by the jury. The main obstacle in a jury trial is the cost to which a person is exposed.
The court may also allow a guardian attorney representing the best interests of the child or even the attorney representing the party to be present for the interview. However, usually, the attorney present for the interview does not have much input in the interview process.
In any event, our advise to parties to a divorce or custody case is always that the best interests of the child will always be paramount to the demands of the parent in these type of cases.