Florida Court Discusses Depositions of Child Witnesses in Child Custody Cases

One of the fundamental elements of litigation is the right to question your opponents and their witnesses. The right is not absolute, though, as demonstrated in a recent child custody case in which the courts protected a child witness from being deposed. If you are concerned about protecting your parental rights, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Miami child custody attorney.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the mother and the father began living together over a decade ago. The mother had a daughter from a previous relationship, and the mother and father later had a daughter together. In 2019, the mother’s older daughter advised a mental health coordinator at her school that the father had sexually abused her and that her parents were aware of the abuse. She was interviewed multiple times, and her testimony was the same each time.

Allegedly, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) filed an action to terminate the mother’s and father’s parental rights to both children. During the trial, the oldest daughter testified regarding the abuse but recanted her earlier statements that both parents were aware of the abuse. The father moved to disqualify the judge and for a new trial, and his motion was granted, and a new trial was ordered.

Reportedly, the court entered the testimony of the oldest daughter into evidence before the trial. The father’s parental rights were subsequently terminated; before that, though, the oldest daughter emailed the judge to retract her allegations. Another trial was scheduled, and the father noticed the oldest daughter’s deposition. DCF filed a motion for a protective order to preclude the deposition, and the court granted the motion. The father appealed.

Depositions of Child Witnesses in Child Custody Cases

Under Florida law, a court tasked with assessing whether to permit the deposition of a child victim in a termination of parental rights case must consider: the nature of the allegations, the child’s age, the best interests of the child, the relationship between the child and the assailant, whether testifying is likely to affect the child adversely, and whether the child has previously been examined.

In the subject case, the court affirmed the trial court ruling, stating that no case law or statute supported the argument that such a deposition was a matter of right. Further, in consideration of the factors above, the court found it to be in the child’s best interest not to be subjected to further examination. As such, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Talk to a Trusted Miami Attorney

In any case, involving the custody of a child or parental rights, the court’s primary concern is what is in the child’s best interest. If you have questions regarding child custody, it is wise to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The trusted Miami attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best result possible under the facts of your case. We have an office in Aventura, and we frequently help people in custody cases in Miami. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a conference.