What happens when judges question children in child custody cases

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2024 | Child Custody |

Divorces that involve contested child custody can often be just as tricky for New Hampshire judges as they are for the family members themselves. However, many judges want to interview children involved in a custody battle to get a feel for the minors’ relationship with each parent. What can you expect when going through this process?

When should judges talk with children?

Instead of talking to children at the beginning of child custody proceedings, judges should wait until the children have had a sufficient amount of time living alone with each parent. While you’ll find no specific timeline for this, these interviews should only occur after children can see how each parent acts differently from the other. In addition, experts agree that judges should not interview children before 11 as they cannot correctly discern a timeline before this age.

Helping your child before the interview

As a parent, you can help prepare your child for the judge’s interview by indicating what the judge may ask. Avoid coaching children on what they should say, but focus on the kinds of questions the judge may ask. These can include:

  • What is your mom/dad like?
  • What does mom/dad say when you do something wrong?
  • Who helps you with schoolwork?
  • Who takes you to activities and sports?
  • What is your favorite thing to do with mom/dad?

Living with the judge’s decision

Parenting plans are often difficult and sometimes virtually impossible to work out in some cases. When you can’t reach an agreement, the courts have to decide for you, which means that you or the other parent will be fully satisfied with the decision. Judges interview children to get an idea of how each one relates to parents as individuals. They also look for patterns of emotional nurturing, psychological care and support, and whether a parent uses their children for emotional support.

Attempt to work out child custody through mediation or another form of negotiation. By avoiding court, you may be able to come to a more equitable child custody agreement.