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What does a Family Law Judge do?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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A family law judge presides over family law matters in court. An individual with this title usually hears cases related to divorce and child custody. He may also decide cases involving questionable paternity and the termination of parental rights. Often, a person in this position decides financial matters for people with family law cases. For example, he may decide whether or not to order spousal or child support; he may decide the amount that should be awarded as well. Sometimes family law judges also hear cases involving abuse and neglect.

Family law judges have the job of applying the law in their jurisdictions to the families, attorneys, and other parties that come before them. This typically means presiding over trials and hearings and making decisions that are fair and in accordance with the laws in their jurisdiction. They typically listen to both sides of a case before handing down their judgments. They often listen to the testimony of the parties involved in a case as well as that of other witnesses.

A family law judge often acts as a referee in a courtroom. For example, if there is a dispute between attorneys, he typically takes steps to settle it. He works to ensure that court proceedings follow an acceptable order as well as to quell outbursts. He often rules on whether evidence is admissible in court as well. For example, if a party to a custody case wants to submit a journal as evidence, a family law judge may decide both whether it can be used as evidence and how it can be used.

Each jurisdiction has standard rules and regulations for handling family law cases. In certain situations, however, a judge may have to rule on something for which there are no standards to follow. In such a case, he may have the authority to establish standards that are in keeping with his jurisdiction’s laws.

Most people are aware that a family law judge is charged with making life-altering decisions for others. For example, a person in this position often decides whether to grant a divorce and which parent will have custody of the children following a split. Family law judges also have many behind-the-scenes duties, however, such as reviewing legal documents and performing legal research in their private offices. Sometimes they also write legal opinions and meet with attorneys to hold hearings that are in their chambers rather than a courtroom. Additionally, this type of judge may also have the job of supervising court personnel.

A person who wants to become a family law judge usually has to complete college and law school in preparation for this career. Then, he usually has to pass an exam to be eligible to practice law in his jurisdiction. After securing his legal practice license, a person usually has to spend several years as an attorney before he is eligible to become a family law judge. Finally, he may either be elected for this position or appointed for the job.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon972394 — On Oct 03, 2014

Family law judges are unjust judges.

By Vincenzo — On Apr 12, 2014

@Terrificli -- and that wide discretion means that a family law judge must have an excellent sense of right and wrong. Yes, there are guidelines to follow, but a family law judge has to deal with a lot of unique situations and has to draw on experience and wisdom to make the right calls.

By Terrificli — On Apr 11, 2014

A family law judge does more than simply apply the law to cases -- such a judge deals in the far more hard to define realm of equity. That concept suggests that justice must be done and what is equitable in one case or another can be difficult to define.

A family law judge, then, has wide discretion in deciding cases because equity is so hard to define.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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