Do children always tell the truth in family law cases?
Among the most common myths which become conventional wisdom in the family court is that children always tell the truth. It surprised me when I first heard this, and continues to surprise me when I hear it. Everyone was a child and every one of us knows a child. The one thing we know is that kids, for a variety of reasons, don’t always tell the truth. For whatever reason, the fact that a child would tell something untrue about one of their parents seem unfathomable in a family law case.
The reasons why children lie in family law cases is complicated, but often is has a lot to do with aligning themselves with the more powerful parent, and protecting themselves from the wrath of that parent. Children are also susceptible to suggestion and especially vulnerable. God forbid that this parent has a skill set that gives them extra capacity to sway a child. For example, if your parent is a therapist, or an attorney, the amount of damage they can do is enormous.
Adding to the difficulty of dealing with children who lie is the erroneous belief that attorneys and judges are good at telling whether someone is lying by listening to them and hearing them testify. Even worse is when the court appoints counsel for the minor children and puts them in the position of making such determinations based upon their conversations. Still further, highly-trained mental health professionals also weigh the credibility of a child. I have yet to see any research at all makes me believe someone can make such determinations accurately. I have concluded that “her word against his” situations are ultimately determined by documentation showing one party has lied or lies frequently. The failure of courts to recognize this comprises the most serious failing of the family court system.