Mom is hugging her two children who have sad and anxiety expression

Children often need to give a testimony in an Illinois custody case, and parents can make this process easier on the children by preparing them ahead of time. This responsibility falls under the role of the guardian at litem and it requires careful care to ensure the child understands their role in the process and can determine the level of cognition the child has to understand concepts.

Minimizing the Emotional Trauma of the Child

One of the main factors when preparing a child to testify in divorce proceedings is reducing stress and anxiety. The divorce process is traumatizing for children, and the guardian at litem needs to find ways to reduce that anxiety so they can give the testimony well. This not only helps the child, but it also helps the testimony stand in court. If the child appears anxious or is suffering from trauma, their testimony can be called into question by the opposing party.

According to 750 ILCS 5/604.10, the interview will take place in chambers to help minimize emotional trauma and the overall experience.

Explaining to the Child What Will Happen

One of the jobs of the guardian ad litem is to prepare the child through a proper explanation of the process ahead. First, the guardian ad litem should tell the child who the people in the room will be so they are not frightening to the child. The child should be informed that the parents will be informed of what they say in their testimony. This gives the child the chance to work through any apprehension about a parent’s reaction to their testimony, especially in cases where abuse is suspected.

If possible, allow the child to tour the judge’s chambers ahead of time. This gives them the chance to ask questions and meet the people who will be there when they testify.

Understanding Direct Examination and Cross-Examination

Direct examination or cross-examination is frightening to a child. Being asked the same questions over and over can make the child feel like their answers are “wrong” and lead to changing answers. It is best for the child to be prepared for this inevitability beforehand, which can minimize anxiety and help them deliver their testimony accurately no matter who is asking questions. Throughout the process, the guardian ad litem, family law attorney, and the judge should be respectful of the child’s need for occasional breaks through the grueling process.