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When Do Judges Use Discretionary Powers?

Friday, August 26, 2016

While many people know that family law judges find facts, decide cases, and interpret the law, many are unfamiliar with the concept of "discretionary powers." Judicial discretion allows Florida judges to exercise judgment based on what, in their opinion, is fair under the under the given circumstances while also following the rules and principles of the law. The concept of judicial discretion has a long history in both American and English law.

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Source of Powers of Discretion

Judicial discretion is derived from several sources. Statutes often grant discretion by stating that a judge may or may not elect to do something in matters involving a particular law. However, just because a judge may exercise discretion does not necessarily mean he or she will deviate from previous rulings in similar cases. The rules of civil and criminal procedure are also teeming with examples in which a judge may exercise discretion. Certain areas of law, including family law, juvenile, and probate generally allow for greater judicial exercise of powers of discretion than others.

Child Custody Fact-Finding Missions

Judges presiding over family law cases have a fact-finding role in motion hearings, bench trials, and also as case managers in jury trials. They are permitted to exercise discretionary power in determining what evidence will be allowed, how the evidence will be considered by the judge or jury, and what remedies are available. In family law cases, judges use discretionary powers in deciding what they feel is best for the children. These powers come into play frequently in complex child custody cases.

Discretionary Powers in Evidence

Evidence that is presented at trial is subject to the broadest exercise of judicial discretion. Not only do judges determine whether evidence will be allowed or disallowed, but once these determinations are made, cases are rarely overturned based on evidentiary rulings. Therefore, choosing a Coral Springs child custody lawyer who has a great deal of knowledge and experience in presenting and arguing admissibility of evidence is of great importance.

Weighing Factors

Often, a judge may be required to weigh certain factors in making a determination. In the absence of language stating otherwise, judges are not restricted from weighing certain factors more than others. In family court matters, judges must consider that no two cases are identical; therefore, factors may be weighed differently when deciding a child or divorcing family's best interest.

Making the Most of It

While some may be frightened by the notion of judges having so much flexibility, powers of discretion also may provide an opportunity for more individuals to receive a fair, equitable outcome. For this reason, individuals who are involved in a criminal or civil case should retain a lawyer in the interest of winning pretrial motions, which generally are much more difficult to effectively appeal, and in putting their best foot forward before the court. A lawyer can personalize a case to help the court view his or her client as a human being versus simply a plaintiff or a defendant. Excellent presentation can bring a client's story to life when a judge is otherwise limited to the details that are printed on paper.

Winning Favor

In instances in which an appearance before a judge is necessary, individuals may improve their probability of success by making a positive impression on the judge. Dressing appropriately, remaining calm and reasonable, and listening intently and respectfully are basic practices that will likely influence the judge and impact his or her decision-making to an extent. For most people, the first step to understanding discretionary power and its role in the criminal or civil matters they face is to seek out a helpful attorney. Having the guidance of a knowledgeable child custody attorney in Coral Springs can ensure that individuals better understand their case and are adequately prepare for their court appearance, if necessary. Furthermore, an experienced custody lawyer can provide reliable answers to your questions in addition to explaining the concept of discretionary power, its potential impact in the case at hand, and ways in which judicial discretion may be leveraged in your favor.

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