Family Court Judges: What You Don’t Know Might Hurt You

Family Law


One of the things that a lawyer can be helpful with in a family court matter is giving you perspective on the style of the judge you have been assigned. There are things that most self-represented individuals do not understand about judges and how they work in the family court. Here are 7 things you may not have known:

  • Judges in family court often do not have a background in family law. Often, new judges are assigned to the family court and given some training, but do not have a background in family law. Lawyers can identify how to present the law to judges based on their experience and time on the bench.


  • Judges have a lot of discretion in how to deal with family court matters. There are some rules you may not know that are supposed to bind certain procedures, but if these rules are not asserted then judges do not always follow them. Sometimes, I tell clients that family court is the Wild, Wild West of the court because rules are often relaxed given that there are so many self-represented individuals and judges have different approaches.
  • Judges also have a lot of discretion about scheduling. They do not have to give you postponements, though they often will give you one and only one to obtain counsel or records.


  • What you think is “fair” may not be in accordance with what the law says. Judges may not articulate to you what law they are applying but that doesn’t mean they aren’t correctly applying one.


  • Judges see the same lawyers over and over again, and a lawyer develops a reputation in front of the judges they appear in front of. Knowing your potential lawyer’s reputation is helpful in selecting one.


  • Judges have ethical rules they must follow. They cannot speak to one side of the litigation without the other present on substantive issues, for example. They can’t consider evidence given to them without notice to the other party. Writing a letter to the judge without using proper procedure and format and not noticing the other party is not a strategy that is generally successful.


  • You can’t easily change the judge you have been assigned. If there is a LEGITIMATE conflict (for example: this judge is my adversary’s sister, or this judge did my initial divorce as a lawyer before they were a judge and shouldn’t be deciding on a post judgment matter, something substantial) you can ask the judge to recuse themselves. However, you can’t change the judge because you don’t like them or think they were unfair.


If you need representation in a family, estate or guardianship matter, call for a free initial consultation today:  856-227-7888.

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