Will my Children be Required to Speak with the Judge?

It is paramount in any divorce proceeding to try and shield your children as best as possible from the ongoing stressors of your litigation. However, in cases where custody is highly contentious, there is a strong possibility that the Judge will need to meet with your children.

The meeting between your children and the Judge is called an in-camera interview (also known as the Lincoln hearing). It takes place in the Judge’s chamber and can take place at any stage of the custody trial. Your children will meet with the Judge, along with their attorney. A court reporter and court officer will also be present in the room. No one else is allowed in the room. The conversation that is held between the Judge and the children during in-camera interview is sealed and will not be revealed to either parent or their counsel.

No two in-camera interviews are alike, what the Judge decides to speak with your children about will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case and what the Judge has already heard at the custody trial. It is crucial that you do not attempt to influence your children in any manner prior to the in-camera interview. Not only is it not healthy for your children, who should be as shielded as possible the litigation, but the Judge will be able to determine if any undue influence is placed on the children, which will likely undermine your position at the custody trial.

While the concept of an in-camera interview may seem intimidating, Judges are trained to meet with your children and will take all necessary steps to ensure your children feel comfortable and heard. Some Judges will have age-appropriate games or toys to help the children feel comfortable or to enable them to engage in a natural way. In some cases, I have also experienced the Judge bringing in their pets to help calm the children and provide emotional support.

The material in this blog is meant only to provide general information and is not a substitute nor is it legal advice to you. If you require legal advice pertaining to your divorce or custody matter, please contact Mariselle R. Harrison at 516-746-8000 or via email at mharrison@jaspanllp.com.