Judges Play Sometimes Conflicting Roles in Divorce Settlements


Noel Semple recently published an interesting  report based on interviews with judges and other legal professionals that reminds us that judges play more varied roles in divorce disputes. These roles raise important questions about whether the structure is fair and whether children’s interests are sufficiently protected by current practices.

Semple interviewed 10 sitting or recently retired judges and 18 legal professionals (lawyers, mediators, and law professors) in Toronto and New York.

Not surprisingly, Semple reports that in general, judges do not see their primary role as the decision-maker for divorcing parents, but rather “they actively seek to bring about consensual settlements in their custody and visitation cases.” In other words, when parents come to a mutual agreement about parenting plans, judges view this as success.  As a result judges often play more of a mediator role in the divorce process, rather than an arbitrator of claims by parents.  Semple also suggests that judges may inadvertently not take children’s needs into account because of their efforts to get the parents to come to a mutual agreement.   See a more extended summary on Huffington Post.

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