Written by: Tracy Augustin
Are you a newbie to Family Court? If so, you are probably wondering who that person is that will be potentially deciding the fate of your life…that person known as your Family Court Judge. With this burning question in mind, we have put together a list of 5 things you NEED TO KNOW about Family Court Judges.
1. There are around 27 Family Court Judges in Maricopa County, so you might be curious as to what judge you will get. Well, when your family court case is first started (filed) in Maricopa County Superior Court, the Clerk of the Court will automatically assign the case to a judge in one of Maricopa County’s four facilities (Downtown, Northeast, Southeast (Mesa) or Northwest (Surprise)). The zip code you use when filing your case will determine the location where your case will be placed. At that point, the Clerk of the Court will randomly assign you a specific judge.
2. Changing judges is allowed (in some circumstances). Maybe your best friend’s step-brother’s cousin had “Judge so-and-so” and the case did not go well for her. Does this give you a right or reason to change judges? Well, the answer is: it depends. Typically, as a right, you are allowed to change your judge one time, no questions asked. But there are some caveats to this, such as:
(A) Your request must be timely:
- In other words, you can’t file a Notice of Change of Judge within 60 days of an upcoming trial;
- You can’t request a new judge if you request one within 3 days of a scheduled proceeding, unless you received less than five days notice of that proceeding or the assigned judge or after a new judge is assigned; and
- You must request a different judge within 10 days of the appointment of the new judge.
(B) You must not have waived your ability to request a new judge:
- You cannot have agreed to the assignment of that judge;
- The Judge cannot have ruled on any of your case’s issues;
- The Judge cannot have held a scheduled conference, contested hearing, or trial.
If you are not able to change your judge this late in the game for one of the reasons listed above, you may still request to disqualify your judge for cause (in other words – for a darn good reason). Without some darn good reason as to why you should be given a new judge, chances are pretty high that your request will be denied.
3. Once you are assigned a judge, your case may be reassigned, even if you have not requested a new judge. There are actually several reasons why you might get a new judge assigned to your case, such as a judicial rotation (this typically happens in June of every year), if the other party has requested a new judge or if cases are simply reassigned for clerical reasons. If your case is reassigned to a new judge that you want to change (and you meet the requirements set forth in number 2 above), you can still change!
4. Family Court Judges have broad discretion. This means that your Judge can make any orders or rulings, so long as there is some reason in the law for his or her ruling. Because of the amount of discretion a judge has, appealing a judge’s decision is often an uphill battle. The Court of Appeals gives the decision of a Superior Court judge a lot of weight, and it is going to take an abuse of discretion or a pretty darn good legal reason to get your judge’s decision overturned. (BUT-if you get a decision you don’t agree with, you should still talk with an attorney about alternatives for having the decision reversed or changed.)
5. If you are concerned about the specific “dos” and “donts” for your judge, be sure to check the Maricopa County Superior Court website for information about how each judge likes to run the courtroom. To access this information, follow this link:
When you find your judge listed, click on the link under the “Profile” column. Not every judge has a profile, but the profiles that are listed are extremely helpful!
Best of luck in your Maricopa County family court case and with your judge!