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What to Do If the Judge in Your Divorce Trial Is Biased


If you have ever attended a social event at the workplace of one of your family members, you probably came away with the impression that your family member’s profession is a small world.  For example, if your brother is a podiatrist, you might get the feeling that all the podiatrists in South Florida know each other, and if your wife is a professor of physics, you might think that all the physics professors in South Florida are each other’s colleagues in some capacity.  There are only so many judges in Palm Beach County and only so many divorce lawyers, so there is a real possibility that the judge in your divorce case might have met or worked with your lawyer or your spouse’s lawyer before.  When is this just a normal part of the legal profession, and when is it a conflict of interest?  It depends.  No matter the circumstances, though, you have the right to a fair trial with an impartial judge in your divorce trial.  A South Florida divorce lawyer can ensure that you are treated fairly in your divorce case, whether or not your case goes to trial.

Details of the Becker Case

Omer Becker filed for divorce from his wife Dana in December 2018, and a judge was appointed to their case.  When the parties attended a hearing in June 2019, represented by their respective attorneys, Omer found out that Dana’s lawyer had represented the judge in the judge’s own divorce case some years earlier.  Omer considered it a conflict of interest and was especially disturbed that the judge did not disclose his prior attorney-client relationship with Dana’s lawyer.  When Omer appealed, the appeals court ruled that, although it does not always constitute a conflict of interest if the judge has met either of the parties or their lawyers in another context, it was unfair of this judge not to disclose to Omer that he had previously worked with Dana’s lawyer.  The appeals court determined that the judge should disqualify himself from the case and let a different judge decide Omer and Dana’s divorce.

How Can You Tell If a Judge Is Biased?

You can request a different judge for reasons other than if the judge knows your ex-spouse’s lawyer.  If you think that the judge’s biases are preventing him or her from being fair and impartial, you are probably right.  In another Florida case, the husband alleged that the wife’s drug use was keeping her from becoming financially independent, but the judge refused.  When the husband found out that the judge was facing criminal charges for marijuana possession (this happened in 2007), he was sure that the judge was not impartial.  It doesn’t have to be a specific incident that convinces you that the judge is being unfair.  If the judge seems to treat you rudely and not take you seriously, that is enough.  If the judge seems to have prejudices against men, stay-at-home mothers, self-employed people, immigrants, or any other group to which you belong, you have the right to speak up about it and get a judge who will treat both parties fairly.

Let Us Help You Today

The right to a fair trial applies to divorce cases, too, not just to criminal trials.  Contact the Boca Raton divorce lawyers at Schwartz | White for help with your case.


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