While there is a statute that addresses the rights of the family court judge to interview children in chambers, it is rare for this to occur. In years past, there may have been more frequent occasions when the court would undertake an “in camera” interview. But custody professionals tend to discourage such a direct involvement of a child in the process of a contested custody proceeding because of the stress, an potential trauma, to the child.
The reader may wonder about the potential trauma to the child in the absence of an interview in chambers. But few family court judges have the proper background and training to conduct an interview in an age and developmentally appropriate way. Most family court judges would self-identify accordingly.
In recent years, the unlikelihood that a judge would be willing to proceed with an interview, coupled with the unlikelihood that the parties and their attorneys would agree to the same, has resulted in interviews in chambers all but going extinct. There are many alternatives to an interview in chambers, including custody evaluations, early neutral evaluations, brief focused assessments, parenting consultants, custody mediation, and child-inclusive mediation. An interview in chambers has the “up” side of being relatively expeditious and relatively inexpensive. But the disadvantages almost assuredly outweigh the advantages.