Witnesses in Florida Custody Trials
Although many cases come to a final settlement before a custody trial is needed, some cases are too hotly contested and ultimately need to rely on a judge to make the final determination. Florida law places a strong preference towards granting joint custody to parents so they have equal rights and responsibilities and both get parenting time with the children.
The “Best Interests” Standard
In a Florida custody hearing, a judge will make their final determination based on what is in the “best interests” of the minor child. In determining “best interests”, a judge will consider many factors, including but not limited to:
- The child’s preference (taking into account the child’s age and maturity)
- Mental and physical health of both parents
- Any charges of domestic violence or sexual abuse against either parent
- Each parent’s historical involvement with the child’s activities, school, and home life
- Each parent’s respective ability to give the child a stable environment to grow up in
- Each parent’s work schedule
- Any other individuals who may be around either parent if granted custody and their relationship to the child.
Who are Typical Witnesses?
Both parents will be called to testify as to their relationship with the minor child. Parents should expect to testify about their involvement with the child’s activities and school, what activities they do with the child, any major decisions they make for the child, and what kind of environment they can provide for the child if they are granted custody.
If an expert custody evaluator has been appointed on your case to interview you and your child and observe interactions, you should expect that evaluator will be called as a witness in the trial. This evaluator likely will testify as to their observations as well as to any written report they have prepared in connection with your case.
Florida law provides that a child may not be a witness to or attend a child custody hearing without court approval. This means if a parent wants the child to testify, they must file the appropriate motion with the court. If allowed to testify children normally do so via an “in-camera examination.” An in-camera examination takes place in the judge’s chambers without the parties so a judge may candidly speak to the child. A court reporter will be present during the examination and transcribe the examination in full for the parties.
Contact Us For a Consultation Today
When a case reaches a stage where you are going to a contested hearing, you should contact the experienced Winter Park custody attorneys at Cotter & Zelman, P.A. to help prepare you and any witnesses for the hearing so you feel confident and prepared. Our attorneys can help you go through the best interests analysis and prepare you with sample questions you should prepare to be asked at the hearing. Contact us today for a free consultation.