Several questions and issues are raised throughout the course of a Florida divorce. One common question most parties ask is whether their child or children will be able to testify or speak with the judge as part of their child custody case.
According to Florida statutes, a Florida family law judge may take into the consideration the preferences of the children when it comes to child custody matters, specifically when the court is being asked to devise a timesharing agreement or parenting plan. The court's ability to address the preferences of the children is one of several elements the court must weigh when devising a parenting plan as it is the court's responsibility to devise a parenting plan in the best interests of the children.
Although a Florida family law judge is provided the ability to allow a minor child to testify from Florida's statutory authority each party in a Tampa family law case should be aware that such ability is discretionary and each judge may vary as to their willingness to allow a minor child to testify. Typically a judge will weigh the age, maturity, and the issues at hand before allowing a minor child to testify. Further, a party usually will have to seek permission from the court to allow children to testify via a preliminary motion and hearing. Often times a court will deny a parties request to allow the testimony based on the reality that the judge and related attorneys do not have the necessary qualifications and/or training for such a matter.
When a judge is faced with a request to allow testimony from a minor child there are many different alternatives a judge may choose including but not limited to appointing a guardian ad litem, ordering a parenting plan evaluation, and appointing a parent coordinator. Because each alternative can severely impact the Florida custody case it is highly recommended that each party speak with their Tampa divorce attorney to analyze and weight each possible scenario and the impact it may have on their case.