A new law taking effect January 1, 2023, expands protections for children in family court. These protections seek to ensure the well-being of children testifying in custody matters and provide greater accountability regarding unsupervised visitation orders.
Testify in front of parents
In California, when making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation, the court is required to consider the wishes of the child if they want to provide their input, as long as, they are of sufficient age and capacity. Under the new law, children are no longer required to testify as to their wishes in the presence of their parents. They will instead be able to give their testimony in front of the judge and representing attorneys. The court can only make an exception when the judge determines that it is in the best interest of the child to testify with their parents present and doing so will not be detrimental to the child.
Change preference for testifying
This new law also allows children at any point to change their minds regarding addressing the court by informing a court professional connected with the case. The professional will be required to promptly inform the judge that the child has changed their preference for testifying.
State reasons for unsupervised visitation
Under the existing law, the court is required to state its reasons for ordering sole or joint custody to the parent who has an allegation of a history of violence or substance abuse made against them in the proceeding. The new law extends that requirement to include judge’s orders of unsupervised visitation to a parent who has had an allegation made against them.
Effects of the change
These changes are a step forward in safeguarding the best interest of children by minimizing the risk of harm to them in the family court.