On occasions, our clients desire to have their children testify in a divorce or custody matter. However, the general rule in Utah is that children should not testify at trial or evidentiary hearings if it can at all be avoided. Consider the following statutory provisions and case law regarding this issue:
- UCA § 30-3-10(1)(c): The children may not be required by either party to testify unless the trier of fact determines that extenuating circumstances exist that would necessitate the testimony of the children be heard and there is no other reasonable method to present their testimony.
- In re A.J., 2005 UT App 147: Court has discretion to keep child off witness stand in custody dispute. In most cases, info from child can be provided in other ways.
Children at Court
In divorce and non juvenile matters, the parties should not bring their children to court. The parties should really endeavor not to involve the children unless absolutely necessary and this includes not taking them to court. Juvenile matters are obviously a different matter. Consider the following:
- UCA § 78A-6-317: A child shall be represented at each hearing by the guardian ad litem appointed to the child’s case by the court. The child has a right to be present at each hearing, subject to the discretion of the guardian ad litem or the court regarding any possible detriment to the child.
Best Interests of the Children
In summary, parents involved in a divorce or other family law matter, not necessarily juvenile matters, should not involve their children or bring them to court. Even if your children are teenagers an mature, every effort should be taken to keep them from becoming witnesses or involved in the dispute in any way. Always look out for the best interests of your children even if such interests do not necessarily match up with your own. This will come through in your case and will help show your parental fitness to the court.