The judge is the person who will be making all the decisions in your litigated divorce case, so of course, you realize they hold a great deal of significance in your case and your life. However, there are probably quite a few things you might not be aware of that impact how judges view the cases before them.
1. Most Judges are Fair, Smart, Impartial, and Honest
The system is not rigged and most judges truly want to find the best possible outcome they can in each case. However, their schedules are overloaded, their calendars are too full, they work all day with people who are going through the hardest time of their lives, and they are human.
For the most part, you can expect your judge to follow the law, listen to every point of view, and make a decision that is in line with the law and is fair. Judges take their responsibilities seriously and want to deliver justice.
2. There is No Choice of Judge
In New York state, judges are randomly assigned to cases. If a judge has a personal connection to a case, they recuse themselves. If they do not, your attorney can ask them to do so. You and your attorney do not get to choose the judge who will hear your case, and there is no way to influence the selection. [However, some do hire private judges. Learn more.]
3. Judges Want to Follow the Law
A judge’s job is to apply the law to the circumstances of your case. They are not out to get anyone, punish anyone, or make a statement. Judges want to make sure their decisions closely follow the laws and precedents that have been set out because if they don’t, their decision could be appealed and overturned by an appellate court.
No judge wants to see their decisions overturned because it is essentially a criticism of their work. They want as clean a record as possible when it comes to appeals. Because of this, their goal is to apply the law as accurately as possible.
4. Judges Have Private Lives
Obviously, judges have their own lives but it’s important to note that their own experiences could color their approach to a case. This is why your attorney’s experience is absolutely invaluable. Your attorney knows the judges and understands the life experiences they have had. As an example, if a couple is divorcing and share a child and the wife has a developmentally disabled son from a prior marriage, it is important information that the judge has a developmentally disabled child, particularly if the son in the case was accused of inappropriate behavior by the husband who is using that as the basis to obtain custody of the child of the marriage.
An experienced attorney will be well aware of the judge’s life experience and will be able to access that when preparing your case. Any implication that a developmentally disabled child is dangerous simply because of their disability would be deeply offensive to that judge and could drastically influence the case’s outcome.
5. Judges Have Seen the Worst
Judges have handled the most appalling and upsetting cases involving child abuse and domestic violence. Thus they are less likely to be shocked by something you might find to be reprehensible, such as your spouse shouting at your child, calling them names, or even physically disciplining them. That is not to say judges do not listen to and evaluate testimony about this behavior, but it does explain the scale against which they compare it.
6. Judges Have Biases
Like anyone, judges have biases of which they may not be aware. They have personal political beliefs. They have opinions. They have religious values. Good judges work very hard to keep any possible bias from influencing a case, but sometimes things slip through. Your attorney will understand your judge’s biases and will be able to plan for them.
7. Judge Make Quick Characterizations
Since they handle so many cases, judges develop fast impressions and sort the litigants into good guys and bad guys pretty quickly. One outburst can cause a judge to quickly characterize someone as a bad guy.
One particularly poignant piece of testimony can lead them to see one spouse as the good guy. They also can stereotype litigants: another mother who thinks the father should have no contact with the kids, another spouse who thinks paying spousal support is ridiculous, another father who doesn’t show up for visitation, etc. It’s easy for them to slot you or your spouse into one of these categories. Your attorney will make it clear you are an individual and that your case is unique. Your role is to present yourself in as positive a light as possible by being polite, following all court orders, and letting your attorney speak for you.
8. Judges Only See You in Court
The only impression of you the judge gets is from what they see in the courtroom. The way you behave in that room, coupled with the evidence and testimony they hear is all they will ever know about you. It is imperative to follow your attorney’s advice and present the best possible image you can in the courtroom. The judge gets a limited view of your life, and it is up to your attorney to ensure that view is well-rounded and accurate.