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Can my child speak to the Judge?

Categorized as Child Custody & Visitation, Divorce Litigation

In cases involving issues of parenting time and decision-making responsibilities, it is not uncommon to hear that a minor child wishes to speak to the Judge. Pursuant to Section 604.10 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/604.10), the Court may interview a child to determine the child’s thoughts and wishes. This type of interview is referred to as an “in-camera” interview, which means that the interview is behind closed doors, in the Judge’s chambers. Unless agreed otherwise, the parties’ attorneys are present for the interview. A court reporter is also present for the interview and the transcript of the interview is sealed, which means that no one can read the transcript without an order from the Court.

Keep in mind that the Court is not required to interview the child and if the Court does interview the child, you are not in control of what questions are asked during the interview. Many Judges will accept written questions from the parties’ attorneys prior to the in-camera interview but the Judge ultimately decides what is discussed during the interview.

The Court is concerned with what is in the child’s best interests. Pursuant to Sections 602.5 and 602.7 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/602.5 and 602.7), the Court must consider several factors when determining what is in the child’s best interests and “wishes of the child” is just one of the many factors to be considered.

Involving a minor child in litigation between adults is not something to take lightly. Speak to an experienced attorney before agreeing to or requesting an in-camera interview with your child.

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