Latin may be a dead language, but its effects live on. Take the word “camera,” for example. It really just means a chamber, like a room. So an “in camera” interview simply means someone is chatting with—that might be too informal—being grilled by—nope, that sounds too harsh—discussing something with a judge. Oddly enough, in Virginia law1, an in camera interview can be recorded, but the law is vague as to how. Sure, the court reporter could produce a written record, but a video of the interview could be made, as well. So the in camera interview could be recorded with a camera. All of this is crucial, because the opinions, attitudes and likes of the child can help determine custody in a divorce.
Unum de Multis: Who Influences a Custody Ruling?
When choosing a parent for a child in a divorce to live with, the child is not the final arbiter. The judge is, and the judge will use the feelings of the child, interviewed in camera, as one of many (unum de multis) indicators. Other people who can influence the legal outcome:
- Your ex-wife’s attorney
- Your ex-wife
- Your attorney
- A court-appointed mental health specialist, psychologist or psychiatrist
- Municipal, county, and state law enforcement (if you or your ex-wife has a criminal record)
Keep in mind no one individual has greater legal sway than another. You and your ex-wife are presumed equal in the eyes of the law (well, in the eyes of a specific part of the law; that is, the Code of Virginia: Title 20. Domestic Relations, Chapter 6.1. Custody and Visitation Arrangements for Minor Children, § 20-124.2. Subsection B tells us, “As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either.”). Similarly, a judge takes into account everybody’s opinions and professional findings before deciding what is in the child’s best interest.
Nimis: The Many Factors a Judge Considers in Custody Matters
Children go through a divorce with you, but they are really helplessly carried along on a decision you or your ex-wife made. They have little power already, and the divorce will further sunder their small stake in the world. They own no property and (usually) earn no income. They are, as minors, to be cared for by the adults.
When the adults no longer particularly care for one another, those adults (that’s you and your ex-wife) still have a responsibility to care for the children. So it would be too much (nimis) of a burden for you to make, in any way, your child feel she or he had to—somehow—choose between Mom and Dad.
The Virginia State Bar (VSB) strongly reminds potential clients of the many factors a judge will consider. “Factors considered by the court when awarding custody may include
- The age of the parent and child;
- The physical and mental condition of each parent and child;
- The relationship existing between each parent and each child;
- The needs of the child;
- The role played by each parent in the upbringing and caring for the child;
- The home where the child will live;
- The child’s wishes if the child is of sufficient age, intelligence, and maturity to make such a decision”
Your child is not a prize; the court will neither reward nor punish parents by giving or denying custody. If your ex-wife is trying to bribe your children into voicing their desire to stay with her, the judge can ignore such tactics.
As the VSB says, “custody will be awarded to the parent who is most adaptable to the task of caring for the child, and who is able to control and direct the child. Further, custody may be changed if there is a material change in circumstances after the date of the divorce.”
Ex Aequo Et Bono: What is the Best Custody Arrangement for the Children?
The Latin ex aequo et bono, means “what is right and good.” What is right and good for the child is more important than what either parent wants. In Virginia (whose state motto in Latin, sic semper tyrannis, on the state seal means “Thus always to tyrants,” and not, “Get your foot off my neck”), the judge can consider which parent will help ensure visitations with the non-custodial spouse.
That is not just a feel-good idea; it’s Virginia law:
“The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children.”
Ut Legis: Get Solid Advice from an Experienced Custody Lawyer
The best advice, Latin or not, is to get a lawyer (ut legis) to defend your rights. You cannot allow your ex-wife to subject your children to undue psychological harm by making them feel they can somehow hold sway over court proceedings. You also want to defend your right to custody, visitation, and support for your children. Call The Firm for Men at 757-383-9184 and schedule your appointment to speak with an experienced custody attorney.