When a divorce or family law matter begins, many wonder whether it matters who the judge is. Are divorce and family law matters cookie-cutter to such an extent that it does not matter? Or will the judge assigned to the case make a big difference in the outcome?

What’s The Scoop on Whether the Judge Assigned Matters?

The reality is that the answer to this question is complex. In many respects, the judge in a divorce or family law case merely applies the law.

In other words, in some states, child support is calculated by a set formula. However, with spousal maintenance or alimony, as it is called in some states, there can also be a formula.

But in other areas of divorce or family law, it can be the wild west in certain respects in terms of the law. For example, take child custody where many states apply the best interests of the child standard where the judge can weigh various factors.

The same can be true for the division of marital property and state. Most jurisdictions allow the judge to equitably divide marital property and debt in a just manner when given all the statutory factors.

Judges Have Broad Discretion

In weighing the various factors with property and debt division in most jurisdictions, the truth is that judges have broad discretion to determine what is just or unjust. As a result, what one judge might find to be just another judge could have the opposite perspective.

The same can be true as it relates to child custody. Some judges might prefer fifty-fifty custody, while others might like that children can be in one home predominately. Judges can often deviate from these presumptions even in states where there might be a preference for shared parenting or no shared parenting.

Even with child and spousal support, a court has broad discretion in determining the parties’ income or the reasonable expenses for the children. For this reason, the judge on the case can make a big difference, even in areas where a party might feel as if it does not matter.

Talk To Your Lawyer About the Judge

To sum up the original question, it does matter who the judge is on the case in many instances. Many judges can lean one way or the other on cases. Many judges can also have a lens through which they see specific issues. Over time, many judges can become pretty predictable regarding what they do on cases.

Some judges may also be more reserved about their judgment and wait for the evidence. Other judges may be more impatient and prone to make up their minds in pre-trial matters before the court.

For these reasons, most clients need to have a discussion with their lawyer about the judge on their case. Knowing the tendencies and personality of the judge can help a party make better decisions regarding whether to try or settle their case. It can also guide a party in some instances to take a change of judge where one may be granted as a matter of right or cause.