No, I do not mean that a great lawyer is also the judge's best friend. Obviously, if a judge and lawyer who appears before him/her have a close relationship, it creates a conflict of interest that would prohibit the judge from hearing that lawyer's cases. The same would be true if there was a high level of personal animosity between the judge and a lawyer. I recently heard the story of a lawyer who was divorcing his wife, who was a judge. This lawyer was actually bombarded with calls offering to pay him for the privilege of representing him in the divorce so that his future-ex-wife-the judge would have to recuse herself from all of their cases as well.
In a family law case, it is often vitally important that the attorney you choose is able to accurately predict how the judge assigned to your specific case may rule based on the facts of your case. I routinely practice in front of approximately nineteen different judges across numerous counties in two states. Each of those judges have different viewpoints, attitudes, and ideas about what is equitable or in the best interests of children. There are some judges that regularly award equal timesharing while other judges are opposed to it and would never award it absent an agreement of the parties. One judge is very generous in awarding maintenance while the judge in an adjacent county almost never awards maintenance.
Having an attorney who can anticipate how a judge may rule in your case can shape not only how your case is prepared for trial, but also possible settlement. If the opposing party is making demands at a settlement conference that your attorney knows the judge is likely never to award at trial regardless of the evidence, it will inform your negotiation strategy. Conversely, if your attorney is unable to predict the judge's actions, you may wind up giving up more than necessary which could negatively affect your financial future.
During your initial consultation your attorney should be able to give you an idea of what you can expect from the judge who may be assigned to your case. Keep in mind, some judges are easier to predict than others, but the attorney can discuss that issue as well. If the attorney with whom you are meeting is unable or unwilling anticipate possible outcomes of your case based on different facts and variables, it might be a sign you need to hire a new lawyer. Who you hire can make a difference.
Photo courtesy of Mike Licht
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