When parents get divorced, one of the most heated and contentious matters in the process is child custody. Both parents will have their own views of what arrangement is best for their family. However, family courts must ultimately determine what serves the best interests of a child. While some states allow children to express their choice of parent, this is not always the case in Arizona.
A Child’s Wishes
Arizona does not automatically give a child the right to appear or be interviewed in court. That said, though judges are generally against the idea of children testifying in court, family courts have substantial discretion when it comes to assessing the wishes of a child. Before determining if a child’s wishes should be considered, however, the court must first determine if the child is both mature enough and of an appropriate age.
In many cases, family courts will consider allowing a child to be interviewed if the child is 12 years of age or more. The older the child is, the more weight the court will give to their preference.
Below are some of the factors courts in Arizona will consider when allowing testimony:
- If the child wishes to testify and if the child is capable of expressing an opinion on the matter
- How the child may be psychologically or emotionally affected by the experience
- How relevant, trustworthy, and significant the child’s testimony is
Judges are acutely aware of the substantial impact testifying in court can have on a child. Therefore, it is also possible for a child to be interviewed in a judge’s chambers, without potential influence from either parent.
Additionally, there are other ways for a judge to hear a child’s opinion:
- The judge may assign a custody evaluator to interview the child and summarize what the child stated
- The judge may assign an attorney to represent only the interests of the child
- If the case is highly contentious, a guardian ad litem may be assigned to represent the child
Additionally, when considering a child’s preference, the court will also examine what sort of influence a parent might have had on that preference. If a child appears to have been instructed, the court will be very cautious when considering their opinion.
Contact Our Child Custody Team to Schedule a Case Evaluation Today!
If you are in the middle of a child custody dispute, the family law team at Singer Pistiner, PC can provide the compassionate legal guidance you need to get through it. Since 2004, our team has earned a reputation for competence and trustworthiness.
Reach out to our law office today at (480) 418-7011 to schedule a free consultation.