A family court judge wields has the ability to drastically affect the lives of parents and children. A family court judge will typically hear cases involving divorce, neglect or abuse, termination of parental rights, paternity and child support. While all decisions made by judges have the potential to impact lives, a family court judge has the additional pressure of knowing that almost all cases over which she presides will directly and permanently impact a child. In most states, the requirements for becoming a family court judge are the same for becoming a judge in any other court, although a candidate's experience and knowledge of family dynamics will certainly be taken into consideration.
Anyone wishing to become a family court judge must first complete a bachelor's degree. Although any major is acceptable for entrance into law school, English, Political Science and Philosophy are popular majors. Psychology or social work would be good choices for anyone wishing to become a family court judge. An aspiring family court judge must then complete three years of law school culminating in a juris doctorate.
All lawyers must take the bar examination in the state where they intend to practice law. Additionally, they must pass the multi-state professional responsibility examination as well as satisfactorily complete a character and fitness interview or background check. Individual states may have additional requirements before a lawyer may receive her license to practice.
Election or Appointment to the Bench
A family court judge is either elected or appointed to the position. Each state determines its own procedure for filling vacant judicial positions. In states where judges are elected, a prospective family court judge must follow the procedures required to put his name on the ballot. In most cases, this involves affiliation with a political party, although some states have non-partisan judicial elections. In states where judges are appointed by the Governor, a family court judge hopeful must rely on the Governor to take note of her experience and qualifications when a position becomes vacant.
Post Election/Appointment Training and Continuing Education
A family court judge fulfills a unique position in the judicial system. Although the primary role of all judges is to ensure that the rules of procedure are followed and the law is upheld, family court judges also make decisions that have serious and life-altering impacts on families and specifically on children. As such, many states require family court judges to undergo additional training once elected or appointed to the bench before they begin their tenure. In addition, all judges must take continuing legal education classes. A family court judge should use that opportunity to further her knowledge in areas relevant to her position.