As a parent in Arizona, you may be asking the question, what are the legal rights of children in family court? Within Arizona, minors are not granted adult rights until they reach the age of 18. Therefore, their input and desires are important for a Court to know, however, a child may not “choose” their custodian. Read on to learn more about children in the Family Court.
Older children, generally 10 years old and up, may be asked to speak with court officials directly so that these children can share their perspective about where they’d like to live. Of course, the court takes into account numerous factors to determine what’s in the best interests of the children, but it’s common for the court to take the input of an older child seriously. There is no minimum age at which a child may be interviewed – it depends, in part, on the child’s age but also their maturity and what the issues they may speak about are. It should be noted that children do not “testify” at a court hearing but, rather, they are interviewed before an evidentiary hearing by a court staff person. The staff person is, generally speaking, not the judge but is instead a person trained to talk with children. Sometimes, the report of the interview is disseminated to the parents (and their attorneys, if represented) and the judge. Sometimes, the report is held to be “confidential” and is only available to the judge. A report may be held confidential if there is reason to believe one or the other parent may react badly to something the child might say.
If there are hotly contested issues or if both parties are alleging serious things against the other parent (like abuse, neglect or use of drugs), then the court can appoint a Best Interests Attorney (“BIA”) or Family Court Advisor (“FCA”). The BIA is an attorney who is appointed to represent the best interests of the child (even if the child disagrees with what his or her “best interests” are). The FCA explores all issues related to the children’s best interests in order to prepare a report for suggested decision-making and parenting time arrangements to the judge.
Children may have a very strong opinion about what happens in their parents’ family court matters. It is wise to consult with an Arizona family lawyer to learn more about your rights as well as the potential rights of that child. Contacting an attorney sooner rather than later gives you greater understanding of what is necessary and the responsibilities and rights that you have. Especially if you are about to go through a divorce, you may have questions about what this means for you and your children. An Arizona family lawyer can help you determine the relevant issues in your case.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding What Are the Legal Rights of Children In Family Court, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact our Family Law Section at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.