No. Well, no if you are in the family court because you are getting a divorce or dealing with legal decision making and parenting time issues. (Remember, Arizona doesn’t have “custody” anymore.)
Kids aren’t allowed in Family Court. In fact, most of what kids say is not allowed in Family Court, because their statements are considered hearsay, and most judges will not permit a parent or family member testify to what a kid has said. Here is how a child’s voice can be heard in court in Arizona:
1. Through an interview with the Conciliation Court. While a few judges will talk to kids in their chambers, most prefer not. Instead, kids can be interviewed by a therapist or psychologist at the Conciliation Court. The folks at Conciliation Court are trained professionals who can often tell when a child has been coached or told what to say. The professional then prepares a summary of the child’s interview for the judge and parties. The Judge can also listen to an audio recording of the interview.
2. Sometimes the Court will allow a therapist of the child to testify. However, there may still be hearsay issues.
3. Appointment of a best interests or child’s attorney or a court appointed advisor. However, if one these attorney’s is appointed to represent your child, you will most likely have to pay part or all of that attorney’s fees.
But shouldn’t a kid have a voice in where they live? It depends. When making decisions about legal decision making and parenting time, the court has to look at eleven different factors when making it’s decision. Only one of those factors is the wishes of the child, IF the child is of suitable age and maturity to make his or her wishes known. And, again, those wishes are usually determined through an interview, not speaking to the Judge.
There is one time where kids definitely get to be in Court – when they are subject to a Dependency action and have been placed in foster care and the parents have been alleged to have been abusive or neglectful. In this case children have a right to appear in court and let the judge know their wishes. However this is not an absolute right, and the Judge can decide that it is not in the child’s best interests to be present or testify.
So, if you really believe that the Judge needs to hear from your children, talk to us about creating a strategy to make sure your child’s voice is heard.