While in Chicago divorce or parentage court we have occasionally seen a parent who brings his or her young child to court with the intention of having the child speak to the judge on his or her behalf. All parents involved in Illinois domestic relations proceedings should be aware that minors are not permitted to be in courtrooms for their parents’ case. One memorable example occurred when a father told his teenage son, who lived with his mother, to sneak out of the house in the morning and ditch school to meet the father in court. To say the judge reprimanded the father once she was aware of the circumstances is an understatement – the judge was furious with the father and the father probably permanently damaged his reputation with the judge.
However, a child can speak to the court if the proper procedure is followed. The court may be more willing to speak with older children than younger children. If the judge decides to speak with the child, the court’s interview with the child takes place in the judge’s private office, known as “chambers”. The parents can agree to have the child interviewed in the presence of the parents’ attorneys. A court reporter is present to record the child’s interview with the judge and the transcript becomes a part of the court record.
Although this procedure is in place, it should be noted that judges do not speak with children very often. Parents should seriously consider the trauma a child may experience by being asked to actively participate in his or her parents’ divorce or custody case.