While many attorneys explain the concept of jury trials to their clients, few explain why clients might favor a jury trial over a bench trial. This blog explores situations in which parties should consider making a jury demand:
If a Judge Ruled Against You in Temporary Orders
In most jurisdictions (with the exception of Travis and Bexar Counties), cases are assigned to a single judge. For example, divorces filed in Williamson County’s 425th District Court will remain there for every issue in those cases. As a result, an unfavorable ruling during temporary orders likely predicts a similar ruling during a final bench trial. However, parties that request jury trials receive an opportunity for a set of individuals with new perspectives to decide key issues like custody and characterization of assets.
If a Mental Health Professional Reacts Negatively Towards You
In contested cases, courts frequently appoint mental health professionals to assist in custody determinations. Judges heavily weigh these evaluations, and critical reports can spell defeat for affected parties. However, juries are often willing to evaluate evidence independently and rule contrary to a negative mental health assessment. Parties that believe they may be victims of mischaracterization by court-appointed professionals should consider asking their counsel about trying their cases to a jury.
If Relocation is an Issue in Your Case
Juries may decide what, if any, geographic restriction will be placed on a child’s residence. Typically, these restrictions require a spouse to live in the county adjacent to the parent awarded the right to designate a child’s primary residence. Judges tend to favor strict geographic restrictions, while juries are often willing to consider flexible alternatives.
If Separate Property is an Issue in Your Case
Unfortunately, experienced family law attorneys are familiar with the reality that judges may award assets on the basis of perceived fairness. While Texas law requires “clear and convincing evidence” of separate property, judges may deemphasize this burden when it conflicts with their preferred distribution. On the other hand, juries tend to follow the instructions provided to them prior to trial and may be more likely carefully evaluate the facts of a case.
If You are Represented by an Experienced Litigator
Jury trials are complex, demanding endeavors. As a result, there are few family law firms in Texas with the experience and capacity to try more than one or two every five years. Walters Gilbreath is the exception to the rule; Brian Walters and Jake Gilbreath are unmatched litigators who understand the nuances of jury trials and carry exceptional.