I Don’t Like My Family Law Judge. Can I Request A New One?

This is one of the most common questions we hear.  This is often asked when someone reads unfavorable information about the reputation of a family law judge.  The short answer is that obtaining a new judge is extremely difficult.  There are many options to consider when you do not like the judge assigned to your case.

  1. Disqualification

If you do not like the judge on your family law case, the first thing to do is determine if the judge can be disqualified from hearing the case.  A judge who has a personal or financial interest in the outcome of the case can be disqualified.  A family law judge can also be disqualified from a case where they are related to one of the parties.  This situation is extremely rare. However, an examination of the this situation is important because disqualification would not be discretionary.

  1. Recusal

A request to recuse a family law judge is never to be taken lightly.  A commonly granted recusal is where the judge’s former law firm represents one of the parties.  The most commonly requested basis for recusal, however, is alleged bias.  Often a person will read online that a judge is “mother-friendly” or “father-friendly.”  Based upon this perception, I am asked whether we can ask for a different judge.  The answer is almost universally “no.”  The reason is that a legal showing of “bias” is required.  A legal showing of “bias” requires a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.  The bias must be of such a nature, and to such an extent, as to deny a party due process of law.

This is an extremely high standard, and I have never seen such a request granted in nearly 20 years as a family law attorney.

  1. Jury Trial

One way to remove the resolution of the case from the judge’s control is to request a jury trial.  Such a request leaves only legal decisions in the judge’s hands and places the fact-finding duties to a jury.  The judge still holds much power in this situation because they determine what evidence a jury can—or cannot—be shown.  However, the judge’s ultimate role over the case is greatly diminished.

  1. Early Mediation

The final way to avoid a particular family law judge from hearing your case is to conduct a mediation early in your case.  In this situation, you try to reach a settlement before the judge can influence the case.  If a settlement cannot be reached, you may still have the ability to request a jury trial.  However, many important deadlines exist relating to jury trial requests, so it is important to be aware of these deadlines.

If you are concerned about your judge’s reputation and would like to discuss the situation, please contact us at 214-550-1122.  With over 21 years of experience, family law attorney Gerald Tadlock has developed a working knowledge of most family law judges.  He can assist you in how to proceed in this delicate process.