Dealing with Legal Professionals

In addition to providing comfort and support to your child during the legal process, parents should monitor the legal professionals handling of the case to ensure that their child's needs are met. Following are guidelines for parents in dealing with legal professionals:

  1. If the attorney does not have experience in dealing with child witnesses, ask if he or she will consult with one who has this experience.
  2. In your meeting with the lawyers before the court appearance, try to arrange a tour of the courtroom to help prepare your child. Talk with the attorneys about the best time of day for your child to testify - that is, try to schedule the testimony so as not to interfere with naps or mealtimes. If your child is very young, attempt to have the testimony scheduled early in the day, before the child becomes tired. The lawyers should know of planned events that might interfere with testimony, such as a school field trip, vacation, or birthday. If your child has any special ways of showing fear or distress, tell the lawyer.
  3. Discuss with the attorneys any special measures that may be taken to alleviate your child's anxiety on the witness stand. The attorney may speak to the judge to request permission for the child to testify in the judge's chambers, to obtain a smaller witness chair, or to allow the child to use dolls or drawings to demonstrate what happened.
  4. Meet with a victim/witness counselor. The crown attorney's office or the police department may have a victim/witness program. This program may also be listed in the telephone book under the Department of Social Services. A local nonprofit organization serving missing and exploited children and their families may also help guide you and your child through the legal system.