When child custody is contested in California, judges must often interview the children themselves. This can prove to be difficult as many judges lack the proper psychological training necessary to fully discern which of the child’s needs are being met or neglected.
What is asked of children during interviews?
In a child-custody interview, children should be asked open-ended questions that allow them to elaborate on the details of each parent. The judge will use the child’s answers to decide which parent will best meet the child’s needs.
How interviews are lacking
Many judges are inexperienced in the entire interview process. They often do not have the opportunity to interview children, or they haven’t been properly trained in doing so. For example, children do not have a good concept of time until they are over 11. Questions asked regarding time are not beneficial for younger children.
Additionally, younger children have difficulty differentiating parental roles within their families. They know they are fed, bathed and taken to school, but they can’t always definitively decipher who does what.
This is a good reason that interviews for parenting time should not begin until after the child has spent time living with each parent separately. This allows the child to observe how each parent cares for them.
Which parent will get primary custody in a dispute?
Judges must learn how to evaluate the child’s answers to their questions. The parent who offers the most “high-quality parenting” will likely gain custody while the other should have visitation rights.
Determining who offers “high-quality parenting” is tricky but boils down to the parent being a “care-giver” or “care-taker.” Children need parents for emotional support (care-giver), but some parents use their children to satisfy their own emotional needs (care-taker). Obviously, the latter is preferred.