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ULC: Judicial Interviews of Children

Leah Ramirez

ULC: Judicial Interviews of Children
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The Uniform Law Commission (“ULC”) spearheads the crafting of uniform laws for U.S. states to consider adopting as legislation. The ULC carefully selects topics that have a national impact and may benefit from uniformity. For example, the ULC created the widely enacted Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), which has been adopted by all U.S. states (except Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia.

The ULC is currently developing crucial legislation in family law. Starting last year, a Drafting Committee convened to address judicial interviews of children in family law proceedings. The Drafting Committee was formed in recognition that judicial interviews of children routinely occur without any procedural guidance. Child interviews are viewed as a cost-effective tool to elicit a child’s views when required or permitted by law. While some states have outlined a basic process for in-camera child interviews, there is lack of uniformity and lack of codified law on this widely used vehicle.

The Charge to the Committee is to establish procedures that judicial officers will use to interview children when the law requires the child’s views to be heard. Within those procedures, the uniform law will provide guidance for judicial officers when deciding to interview a child while ensuring parents’ due process rights are preserved.

The uniform act will apply to U.S. state court family cases and may also apply to state cases addressing the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. In particular, the child interview procedures will apply if a judicial officer elicits in camera a child’s particularized objection for the mature child exception to return in a Hague Convention matter.

The Drafting Committee is fortunate to have a well-rounded group of Uniform Law commissioners, judges, experienced family law practitioners, and mental health professionals. Each year commissioners review proposed legislation and debate draft acts at the ULC annual meeting. Our draft uniform act on judicial interviews of children is scheduled for a first reading during the annual meeting on July 23, 2024.

The Drafting Committee next meets on October 25-26, 2024 and again in Spring 2025. If the Drafting Committee approves, the proposed uniform act will be presented for a final reading at the ULC’s annual meeting in July 2025.

The Committee encourages feedback from ABA members during the drafting process and invites observers who have a vested interest in this topic. If you would like to provide feedback or participate as an observer, please contact Leah Ramirez, who is serving as the ABA International Law Section advisor.

More information can be found at the Uniform Law Commission.