Can I Change My Family Law Judge?

Discussing the Options of Changing a Family Law Judge in Arizona

Our Arizona Family Attorneys discuss the options of changing a family law judge in Arizona. Please keep in mind, changing your Family Law judge in Arizona may not always be the best idea. Though it is an option, you should not assume that if a change in judges is made that the next in line may be better for your case. Also note, getting a new family law judge takes more effort than just requesting a new judge. Therefore, consulting a Mesa Family Law attorney with experience is a great place to start when considering changing family law judges in Arizona.

Whether you’re going through a divorce, a child support dispute, or a custody battle, you may want to change the judge in your case. You don’t have the option to request a specific judge when your case is filed, but Arizona has procedures for requesting a new judge. Courts are hesitant to reassign judges, so your request must be legally accurate and possibly backed by a strong argument. Contact the experienced Arizona family attorney at My AZ Lawyers to assist you with requesting a change of a family law judge in Arizona.

Judge with gavel and documents


Change of Judge as a Matter of Right

Arizona’s Rules of Family Law Procedure, Rule 6 sets forth the procedures for change of judge as a matter of right. Either party can request a change of judge, without cause, once. However, there are strict time limits on when a party can file for a change of judge as a matter of right. The request must be made at least 60 days before any scheduled hearings or trials.

There are four ways each party can waive the right to change the judge as a matter of right. The parties can agree to the assignment of the judge to their case. Once the judge rules on an issue, such as granting or denying a motion, it is too late to change the judge as a matter of right. Once a hearing, resolution management conference, trial, or other proceeding begins, the right to change the judge for a matter of right is waived.

The court will review the request to determine if the party was entitled to request a change of judge as a matter of right. If not, the existing judge will continue with the case. If that party was entitled to a judge change, the judge may still need to make emergency rulings in the case to prevent immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage occurring before the case can be assigned to another judge.

How to Give Notice that you want to change a Family Law Judge in Arizona

The party seeking to change the judge as a matter of right must give either oral or written notice. The notice must include the name of the judge to be changed, as well as a statement that no rulings or other waivers have occurred in the case yet, and the party has not yet been granted a change of judge as a matter of right. This notice should be served on all the involved parties, the presiding judge, the noticed judge, and the court administrator if applicable.

An oral notice must include the same information required by a written notice. This request must be noted on the record, as well as the judge’s disposition on the matter. The change of judge is “filed” on the date that it is put on the record.

Change of Judge For Cause in AZ

Changing a judge for cause is governed by A.R.S. 12-409 and Family Law Rules of Procedure Rule 6.1. There are five acceptable reasons to request a new judge under Section 12-409. First, the judge should be removed if they have previously served as counsel in the case before being assigned as the judge. Second, the judge can be removed if they are otherwise interested in the action, e.g., the ruling could affect the judge’s financial investments. If the judge is related to either party or is a witness in the case, removal is also appropriate. The last reason a party can request a change of judge under Section 12-409 is if the party believes the judge can’t rule fairly on the matter due to “bias, prejudice, or interest of the judge.”

The party seeking a change of judge will need to draft an affidavit stating why reassignment would be appropriate. The affidavit will need to prove that the judge should be disqualified for any of the reasons listed above “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This is often a higher burden than it sounds, as the courts are reluctant to spend additional time and court resources reassigning judges who already know the details of their assigned cases. If the party can prove their position with objective cause, the judge should be reassigned as quickly as possible.

Service and Hearing when changing a Family Law Judge

Just as with a change of judge as a matter of right, the notice of the affidavit must be served on all parties, the presiding judge, the noticed judge, and any applicable court administrators. Any other parties will have five days to file an opposing affidavit. The current judge may need to be the one who weighs the evidence if they are the only judge in the country- otherwise, a different judge should rule on this matter.

Seek the assistance of a knowledgeable Arizona Family Law Firm

If you are seeking a new judge in your family law matter, the odds aren’t in your favor if there have already been any rulings in your case. You need a strong affidavit backed with clear, demonstrable evidence and a skilled attorney to advocate on your behalf. Hiring quality family law representation doesn’t have to be financially out of reach. Call the attorneys at My AZ Lawyers today for your free consultation. Learn about your rights in Arizona, as well as how affordable our monthly payment plans can be.

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