Do Parents Involved In Custody Dispute Have a Right to Access Transcript of In- Camera Interview Between Child and Judge ?

In In the Matter of Longwell (Aug. 30, 1995), Lorain App. Nos. 94 CA 006006, 94 CA 006007, 1995 Ohio App, the parties seeking divorce had one child. the minor child was interviewed in camera, and the transcript of the interview was ordered to be sealed. The child's mother appealed the judge's various findings and orders, in part because she was denied access to the transcript of the in camera interview. The Longwell court reasoned that R.C. 3109.04 (B)(2)(c) provided that parents may not attend in camera interviews. Further, the parent's attorney may only attend the interview with the court's permission. the Longwell court opined that this statutory language "suggests that the General Assembly intended to create 'stress-free environment [so that] [c]hildren should display candor in setting forth their feelings' regarding custody." According to the Longwell court, affording parents access to the transcript of the in camera interview would contravene this intent. The Longwell court stated further: "[w]e think this confidentiality serves more fundamental purposes, and protects more information than simply the child's ultimate conclusion as to which parent the child most desires live with. Domestic relations judges typically use the in-camera interview to discuss a wide variety of issues, including any problems the child may be having with the parents, step-parents, siblings, etc. In this way, the judge can identify areas of potential trouble, and may discover, inter alia, that the intervention of a social worker is necessary, or that a new hearing on visitation should be held. The Court believes that judges should be allowed to keep their private conversations with the children of divorced parents confidential, as many times it is only this promise of confidentiality that convinces these embattled children to speak freely." 1995 Ohio App. The Longwell court thus held "that the parents of a child that is a subject of a custody dispute do not have a right of access to the sealed transcript of an in-camera interview between the child and the judge." Id.