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How will your family court judge ensure fairness in their courtroom?

So much of what we do on this blog is to provide you with advice that can positively impact your own behavior that is associated with your family law case. That’s not to say that you don’t know how to act or anything like that. However, the simple truth of the matter is that it is unlikely that you have ever been involved in family law case before and the behavior that results in success in these type of cases is not the kind that we would normally exhibit in our day to day lives.

The reason for that is we are very casual in how we go about our daily routines. This isn’t a bad thing. If we were on our “best behavior” at all hours of the day it would be hard to engage in relationships with friends and family or function in a work setting. Having casual conversations and generally feeling at home in your surroundings is what most of us aspire to be able to do with the people in our lives. For the most part this is a good thing. Having opinions and reactions to the behavior of others is what makes us human.

It can, however, create a situation in a family law case that results in a difficult atmosphere to ensure that you and your opposing party are both provided with an opportunity to present your cases to the judge. Imagine a scenario where every time your opposing party stated something on the witness stand that you disagreed with, you would laugh out loud or make a comment that was audible to everyone in the courtroom. If you and your spouse took turns behaving like this it would not only make both of you look bad but would also impact each of your ability to put forth the best case that you could.

For those reasons the judge in your court will do their best to make sure that you and your opposing party are on your best behavior as soon as you enter the courtroom. In the end, you all will be expected to act appropriately. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will address topics relating to how a judge will see to it that you and your opposing party act in conformity with the rules of a courtroom, which can differ somewhat from the rules by which we conduct ourselves on a daily basis.

Your body language will be looked at heavily by a judge

Believe it or not, your body language can convey a great deal more than the words that come out of your mouth as far as how you are feeling or how you perceive a particular situation. This applies to you and your opposing party but also to the judge. When a judge enters a courtroom the first thing that you and everyone else in the room will do is stand up. This is done to show respect for the authority and position that the judge inhabits.

Your attorney can tell you that their perception of a judge is based in large part how the judge administers business in their courtroom. Some judges can be difficult to deal with and their body language reflects this. If you see that your judge is slouched over and not paying attention it is likely that you, too, will be less than attentive to the instructions of your attorney and may even take the proceedings before you less seriously.

Judges typically will go a long way towards acting professional and engaged in whatever case is before him or her. For instance, eye contact is a huge pet peeve of mine. When you are having a conversation with someone it is respectful to make eye contact in order to show that you are engaged in the conversation to the same extent as the other person. If your judge is looking at their computer, phone or notes rather than making eye contact while she is speaking to you that can convey a sense of disinterest or even disrespect. A judge sets the tone for the entire courtroom so if she acts disrespectful to the participants of a hearing or trial, that will subconsciously lead to the parties acting similarly toward one another.

Is your judge biased against you?

One of the things that judges must do when it comes to making sure that they are able to be fair and objective in evaluating your case is to keep their own personal biases and opinions in check to whatever extent possible. Obviously the judge has opinions just like you and I, but their job is one where if he or she lets those opinions overtake their ability to make decisions based on the law then there will be problems.

We rely on the ability of your judge to be a fact finder. Facts are not disputable. Determining what is in the best interests of your child is a subjective determination that your judge may be asked to take on, but to arrive at a decision it is probable the judge had to weigh many factual circumstances. If the judge gives you or your opposing party that he or she is not fairly considering the evidence that you are submitting to him or her then this causes an accountability and bias problem.

Additionally, we live in an age where biases based on characteristics like disability status, sexual orientation, race, gender or other factors can result in a huge problems in a situation as fraught with discord and hostility as a family law case. It is probable that we have all been exposed to someone making allegations against a person that we know that relate to alleged favoritism or bias due to these sorts of characteristics.

The benefit to a judge displaying no evidence of bias is that both you and your opposing party will feel that you are able to present the best case possible to a judge that will fairly and fully consider the arguments being made. Conflict and hard feelings are likely to be reduced and in so doing your child will ultimately be the biggest beneficiary of the more hospitable courtroom. Remember that in most family law cases that require judicial interventions, the best interests of the child standard will be used. If both sides are able to present full cases to an attentive and unbiased judge then it is more likely that the best interests of your child truly will be determined by a judge.

Bias of lawyers will be examined as well

A good judge will also be able to hold your attorneys responsible for apparent acts of bias or prejudice against a party to your case. Attorneys are held to an even higher standard of professionalism and behavior than you and your opposing party are. If you believe that the other attorney in your case is acting unprofessionally toward you it is perfectly fine to bring this to the attention of your attorney. Keep in mind, however, that being asked difficult questions by the other attorney does not equate to bias- that is just the lawyer doing their job. Before you get too up in arms about the behavior of the opposing lawyer it is best to speak to your own lawyer about the situation. Your lawyer will be able to provide you with some context and advice on how to move forward.

With that said, let’s transition into a conversation about how your attorney, and the opposing attorney in your case, can and will play a significant role in how your case is determined. Ultimately the attorneys can play as significant a role as you and your opposing party in reducing hostility and maintaining a professional environment in which to conduct the business of your hearing or trial.

Lawyers have a reputation for adding fuel to the fire of difficult cases

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but lawyers are generally not very well thought of in our society. Generally, it is stereotypically thought of that attorneys are only interested in benefitting themselves and their bottom line. If they can do anything to increase the fees that they earn in your case they will do so. If that means adding to the vitriol and hostility in your case then the attorney will do that without a moment’s hesitation.

As an attorney, I can’t tell you how far this is from the truth for most of us. Now, I’m not going to tell you that there aren’t lawyers out there who will take you for whatever you’re worth as far as fees are concerned. Woe to you if the lawyer that you select to represent you in your family law case is the unscrupulous type who will do whatever it takes to bill you as much as possible.

It is with these stereotypes in mind that your judge is charged with the responsibility to ensure that your attorney and the opposing attorney do not act unethically or inappropriately to the greatest extent possible. This is done primarily and most effectively by promoting mediation as a means to settle cases without judicial intervention and the need for any of the subjects that we have been discussing to become relevant to your case.

Obviously if you and your spouse can settle your divorce in mediation then you will not have to step foot in the same room and would therefore make any of these issues moot. Courtroom etiquette and concerns over the objectivity of a judge are not really relevant if your case never makes it that far. Not only can you minimize hostility and the potential for greater conflict by settling your case, you are also ensuring that your children do not have to withstand a longer custody battle in the process.

Another issue that I see all the time in cases is a party who feels the need to use the court case to act on aggressive tendencies towards the opposing party. Often times the client will attempt to engage their attorney in the bad behavior. It is not only unethical and unprofessional for an attorney to represent a client who is attempting to use the legal system to act harmfully towards the other party, but it serves no purpose in the long run for anyone involved. The judge in your case should be aware of the circumstances and if he comes to find out that your opposing party and their attorney are harassing you then that is their responsibility to address that bad behavior and respond appropriately.

The role of appointed attorneys in your contested child custody case

The end result of a family law case is significant for you, but it is even more so for your child. Remember that the whole purpose of this case that you are involved in is not to “beat” the opposing party but to arrive at solutions to problems that are affecting the life of your child. As your goals may differ from those that are in the best interests of your child, it is not uncommon for a judge to appoint a lawyer to your case who will attempt to make best interest evaluations to assist the judge. We will discuss this topic in greater detail in tomorrow’s blog.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Kingwood Divorce Lawyer

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with a Kingwood, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.

divorce lawyer in Kingwood TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, TexasCypressSpringKleinHumble, KingwoodTomballThe WoodlandsHouston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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