Don’t coach your child in preparation for the interview by the judge
Here’s a funny story. Or maybe it’s no so funny. We were representing a father who wanted custody of his daughters. The mother adamantly objected to a change in custody. For a year, the children had been shuttling back and forth between the parents’ homes, and it was time to pick a primary residence in anticipation of the school year. The judge indicated he would interview the girls.
When the judge interviewed the oldest child, age 7, the girl provided a surprising answer. The judge asked: “What kinds of things do you like to do at your mother’s house?” The child responded: “I like to play, I like to watch television. My mommy let’s me help her cook in the kitchen.” Then, the judge asked, “What kinds of things do you like to do at your father’s house?” The child said: “Daddy is irresponsible. He does not take care of us. He is always late. And he doesn’t pay support.”
Needless to say, the child had been coached by her mother. She had memorized several derogatory comments about her father, and was ready to unleash them when the first question was asked about her father. The judge quickly picked up on the fact that the child was reciting a rehearsed speech. The judge awarded temporary custody to the father and ordered the parents to attend counseling.
The case described above is true, and it is not an isolated one. Parents who coach their children to say negative things to judges during custody interviews often discover that the comments backfire. The moral of the story is NOT to coach the kids. Let them be natural. Give them lots of good things to talk about by setting a good example at your home. Make sure they eat right, sleep right, dress properly, act mannerly and respectful, and live a wholesome life defined by a proper mix of recreation, learning, healthy living, safe habits, parental discipline and personal growth.
If one of the parents has been doing a lousy job, the child will reflect this fact in her own words….and an experienced family court judge will detect it.