How do judges make the decisions the do?

Court proceedings are often confusing to participants. Family law cases involve very specific factual situations that often bring with them very strong feelings. For those involved, it can be difficult to separate the emotional from the legal and they may wind up being frustrated or disappointed in the outcome.

Custody determinations are among the most difficult. Deciding how much time a child will spend with a parent is an intensely personal and emotional decision, yet judges must make these choices when the couple cannot compromise and submit an agreed parenting plan.

A judge is supposed to make a determination based on a long list of factors that the legislature has laid out, but in one state, a man wants more. He is suing the state to disclose the training materials of judges.

He advocates a greater role for fathers in raising their children, and he claims that in Nebraska, fathers on average only received about four days a month of time with their children.

The court administrator denied the request, claiming the material was not subject to disclosure. Ironically, a court disagreed and ruled that most of the materials are public record and should not be protected from disclosure.

The Attorney General has indicated that the state will appeal and fight the request to disclose these materials.

One of the difficulties with child custody cases is justification for some cases may not be clear. Judges are supposed to make decisions based on the best interests of the child, and detail out the points of their decision-making process, but there is often severe disagreement as to what constitutes their best interest.

Source:, “Court orders release of training documents for judges in child-custody cases,” Riley Johnson, January 15, 2015

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