Does the Whole Family Have to Go to Court to Get a Divorce?

by Teo Spengler
A divorce affects everyone, but generally, only the spouses go to court.

A divorce affects everyone, but generally, only the spouses go to court.

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In a broad sense, the entire family goes to court whenever spouses divorce, since children feel their parents' stress, and the new arrangements may change the lives of everyone in the household. However, in most cases children are not required to physically appear in court to give testimony at a divorce trial.

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Divorce Procedure

Generally, children play only a minor role in the actual legal activity of a divorce. One spouse files a petition for divorce and the other responds to the petition, but children -- especially minor children -- can get caught up in the fear, anger and sorrow. Awareness of the kids' emotional involvement in a divorce encourages responsible parents to work toward an amicable settlement.

Child As Witness

Children are not frequently called as witnesses in a divorce trial, but it is not a forbidden practice. In many states, a child can be called to testify, if the court makes a determination that the child is competent to give evidence and that testifying will not injure the child psychologically or emotionally. In fault-divorce states, children have been called on to testify to such issues as adultery.

Child's Custody Preference

Some states permit a child to testify in court about which parent she wants to live with. In California, for example, a child over 14 years old has the right to express her views about custody in court, unless the judge determines that testifying in itself is not in the child’s best interests.