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The Limitations of Telehealth Sessions in Family Court: Safeguarding the Authentic Voices of Children

In the realm of family court proceedings, the use of telehealth sessions has become increasingly prevalent, offering a convenient alternative for conducting evaluations and interviews with children involved in custody disputes. While the digital landscape may seem like a practical solution, it is essential to recognize the inherent limitations of virtual interactions when it comes to safeguarding the privacy and authenticity of children's voices. This article delves into the reasons why strictly relying on telehealth sessions in family court settings may compromise the integrity of the process and fail to provide a true reflection of the child's experiences and perspectives.

One of the primary drawbacks of conducting family court sessions exclusively through telehealth platforms is the lack of privacy and confidentiality afforded to children during these interactions. Unlike in-person sessions where a controlled environment can be established to ensure the child feels safe and secure to express their thoughts and emotions freely, virtual settings may not guarantee the same level of confidentiality.

Children participating in telehealth sessions from their homes may be susceptible to interruptions, distractions, or eavesdropping by other household members, compromising the sanctity of the conversation and inhibiting the child's willingness to speak openly. The absence of a private space where the child can share their innermost feelings without fear of retribution or interference poses a significant challenge in accurately assessing their true desires and concerns regarding custody arrangements.

Another critical issue associated with heavily relying on telehealth sessions in family court is the increased risk of coaching or external influence on the child's statements and responses. In a virtual setting, it becomes more difficult for professionals conducting the sessions to discern whether the child's answers are genuine expressions of their own thoughts or if they have been influenced or coached by a parent or caregiver present off-camera.

Coaching can take various forms, ranging from subtle cues and leading questions to overt scripting and manipulation designed to sway the child's narrative in favor of one party's agenda. Without the ability to closely observe the child's body language, demeanor, and interactions in person, professionals may struggle to detect signs of coaching or undue influence, jeopardizing the integrity of the information gathered during the telehealth session.

To uphold the principles of fairness, impartiality, and the best interests of the child in family court proceedings, it is imperative to adopt a balanced approach that incorporates both telehealth sessions and in-person meetings when engaging with children. While telehealth technology can offer convenience and accessibility, it should not supplant the value of face-to-face interactions in creating a safe and confidential space for children to voice their thoughts and feelings without external pressures or constraints.



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