Will a Child Be Called to Testify in a Custody in Minnesota?

Whether you are preparing to get divorced or are already separated, going through a custody and visitation dispute is never easy. Undoubtedly, you want to protect your children while ensuring that you are in the best position to assert your parental rights and do what is right for your family.

You may be wondering: Do children testify in a custody case? The answer is generally no. There are rare exceptions, but kids are generally kept out of open court. Here, our Mankato child custody lawyer provides an overview of custody proceedings and child testimony in Minnesota.

STATE POLICY: PROTECT KIDS FROM A CUSTODY BATTLE

Minnesota policy is to do as much as possible to protect young children from the stress and turmoil of a custody dispute. State courts work to achieve this in a number of different ways, including keeping children out of open court unless absolutely necessary and truly warranted by the specific circumstances of the case. Children rarely testify directly in a custody or visitation case.

CHILDREN ARE SOMETIMES INTERVIEWED IN THE JUDGE’S CHAMBERS

While children generally do not testify, that does not mean the state courts are uninterested in seeking information from them. However, these discussions are far more likely to occur in the privacy of a judge’s chambers. In fact, if a child is old enough and mature enough, a court may even accept their input regarding preferences for custody and visitation. Under Minnesota law (Sec. 518.166 MN Statutes), a state family law court “may interview the child in chambers to ascertain the child’s reasonable preference as to custodian.” This allows children to give input in certain circumstances without the stress and pressure of testifying in open court.

A GUARDIAN AD LITEM MAY BE ASSIGNED TO CUSTODY DISPUTE

Divorcing/separating parents are strongly encouraged to work towards a collaborative agreement to resolve issues related to custody and visitation. If a dispute persists, it will be resolved under Minnesota’s best interests of the child standard (Sec. 518.17 MN Statutes). A court will determine custody and visitation by figuring what is best for the child’s health, safety, and development.

In some cases, a Minnesota court will need to seek recommendations from an independent third party. Depending on the circumstances, a guardian ad litem (GAL) or child custody evaluator may be assigned to the case. These parties do not make child/visitation rulings, but courts will put a lot of weight behind their recommendations. A GAL or custody evaluator may interview a child outside of the courtroom.

SCHEDULE A FULLY CONFIDENTIAL CONSULTATION WITH A MANKATO CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEY

At Kohlmeyer Hagen, Law Office Chtd., our Southern Minnesota family law attorneys have deep experience representing parents in complex custody and visitation cases. If you have any questions about a custody dispute, we can help. Give us a call at 507-200-8959 or send us a confidential message for your initial consultation. We have family law offices in Mankato and Rochester.

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