When it comes to family law cases, requesting a new judge can be much like trying to make an elephant move from one place to another. If he doesn’t want to move, it’s not likely to happen. In order to get a new judge, you’ll need to have the full force of the law supporting you, which can be hard to get unless you have very specific grounds. It’s not as easy as switching Criminal Lawyers.
The laws of your state determine the reason you end up with a particular judge, though in most states, they are assigned on a specific rotation. Often, the same judge will deal with everything to do with the case from the initial filings to the final trial. In some cases, you may be immediately aware that there is going to be a problem. Then again, you may not realize it until you have gone in front of the judge and he/she consistently rules against you. At that point, it could be too late- some states will not allow you to change judges after the case is underway.
Grounds for Removal Request
Most states require that you have specific grounds for requesting a judge be removed from your case and replaced with another. For example, if the judge has a personal connection with you or your ex, or if he/she has made an offer on the property you’re trying to sell. However, there are some states that don’t require you to state specific grounds other than the judge is biased against you for whatever reason. Then, other states don’t require any grounds be proven. This is a peremptory challenge, and can only be done if you have not gone before the judge.
If you do have specific grounds for removal, the next step is to file a petition with the court, requesting that you get a new judge. Even in states that don’t require grounds to be stated, it must be put into a formal motion. This is not really a common issue, so most states do not have preprinted forms for this. You will need assistance from an attorney to increase your chances of getting a new judge. You can ask that the judge remove himself/herself from the case and if your reasons are valid, he/she may do so. However, if the judge does not excuse himself/herself, you can ask that the court order that a replacement be made. When you file this motion, a copy must also be served to your spouse.
Outcome of Removal Motion
You should know that if the court denies your motion or if you don’t act within a specific time frame, you’re most likely going to be stuck with the original judge assigned to your case. However, all may not be lost. You should know that if he/she honestly has a grudge, you could simply stop the case instead of proceeding and possibly getting an unfair result.
If you filed the initial petition, and your spouse did not file a counterclaim, you can dismiss your case and then refile. The next time around, your case could be assigned to a different judge, though the odds really do depend upon the number of judges in your particular county.