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Parents and their minor children may be barred from testifying against each other in Massachusetts criminal proceedings.

According to M.G.L. c. 233, § 20(4),

A parent shall not testify against the parent’s minor child and

a minor child shall not testify against the child’s parent…

This rule applies in a proceeding before

  • an inquest,
  • grand jury,
  • trial of an indictment, or
  • complaint, or
  • any other criminal, delinquency or youthful offender proceeding.

However, the rule applies only when

(1) the victim is not a family member and

(2) the victim does not reside in the family household.

The statute defines a “parent” as

The biological or adoptive parent, stepparent, legal guardian or other person who has the right to act in loco parentis for the child.

The trial judge will determine whether the parent-child privilege applies to the case.

Whether a witness is competent is first determined by the judge…it is seldom that the discretion of the trial judge can be revised; it exercise must have been clearly erroneous to justify action. 

Commonwealth v. Monzon, 51 Mass. App. Ct. 245, 248-249 (2001).