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Jury Trial – Child Custody Cases

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Jury Trial – Child Custody Cases

Jury trial in child custody cases has its advantages and disadvantages.


Status Quo Analysis.

In the context of child custody cases, judges tend to favor rulings that maintain the status quo and are often extremely hesitant to make any seismic changes for he children in terms of conservatorship and possession & access.

There are times when a jury trial may really be necessary to effectuate a change for the child’s best interest or to give society a chance to weigh in on the egregiousness of a party’s conduct.  When we think about strategy in a family law case, we have to consider whether our client is in a position of wanting to maintain the status quo or change the status quo.


TIME & EXPENSE ANALYSIS.

Jury trials are expensive and time consuming and these factors have to be considered when a client is trying to decide whether requesting a jury trial is right for them.  Many civil attorneys shy away from jury trials because they are A LOT of work. 

At Soyars & Morgan Law, we are a litigation firm with a lot of jury trial experience from working on our criminal defense cases. We are used to putting in the extra work needed to be successful in front of a jury. 

If you think your case might go to jury trial, because either you or the other party will request it, make sure you are retaining a legal team that has an award-winning trial record in the courtroom right from the beginning.  It is so much easier to retain the right attorney in the first place, than to have to change attorneys and direction midstream after you realize you need a trial attorney.


Limitations of a Jury Trial.

A jury can only decide a limited number of issues in the context of a child custody case.  In terms of child custody, the jury gets to decide geographic restrictions and whether a parent will be appointed sole managing conservator or joint-managing conservators (and which parent will be primary).  The jury does not get to decide the children’s possession and access schedules or child support—those issues will be decided by the judge after the jury decides geographic restrictions and conservatorship.  The jury can issue advisory opinions on attorney fees, but the judge will get the ultimate say on that issue as the advisory opinion is not binding on the court (it is just advisory).

When trying to make a decision about whether to request a jury trial, consider the goal you seek to achieve, the time it will take to get a jury trial and the additional cost of a jury trial.  Also remember that once you request a jury trial, the other side can rely on that request and if you later decide you do not want a jury trial, the other side will have to agree to waive the jury trial before the case can be set for a non-jury final hearing.


Trial Team Ready.

The benefit of hiring a trial-focused attorney team right from the start is that it allows for the best possible outcomes at each stage of the proceeding.  Conducting discovery and obtaining evidence is a process that takes time and needs to be started at the beginning of the process and not just once it becomes necessary to go to trial.  If it turns out jury trial becomes necessary in your case, there is no need to worry. 

At Soyars & Morgan Law, we are always Trial TEAM Ready.