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Child custody: You shouldn’t assume that judges will be fair

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Child Custody

When it comes to contested child custody cases, parents often assume that the judge presiding over their case will automatically render a fair and impartial decision. However, this assumption can be both dangerous and misguided, potentially leading to unexpected and unfavorable outcomes. 

After all, despite their training and ethical obligations, judges are human and can be influenced by their personal beliefs, experiences and biases. These subjective factors can inadvertently affect their judgment. For instance, a judge’s personal beliefs about parenting roles or their experiences with their own children might unconsciously color their decisions in custody matters. This subjectivity means that two judges could interpret the same case facts differently, leading to different outcomes.

Judges are humans with an inevitably limited point of view

Judges typically have only a limited window into a family’s dynamics and the personalities involved. They rely on the evidence and testimonies presented during court proceedings, which can only provide a snapshot of the broader picture. Important nuances of family life, which might significantly influence the fitness of each parent or the child’s preferences, can be overlooked or underemphasized in court settings. What one judge may deem in the best interest of the child, another might not, even under similar circumstances.

In New Jersey, judges make custody decisions based on what they perceive to be in the “best interests of the child,” a standard that involves considerable discretion. This standard includes various factors such as a child’s age, the relationship between the child and each parent, each parent’s ability to care for the child, etc. The broad and somewhat vague nature of these criteria means that there is substantial room for interpretation, which can lead to unexpected rulings.

Given these complexities, parents involved in contested child custody cases should not simply assume that a fair outcome is inevitable. Instead, they should proactively engage in the process, seek knowledgeable and experienced legal guidance and prepare thoroughly for court proceedings. 

Understanding the potential subjectivities and variabilities in how judges may rule can help parents better navigate the uncertainties of contested custody battles and work toward a resolution that truly reflects the best interests of their children.