In civil proceedings, a substitution of judge (SOJ) may be sought for various reasons including as of right—which each party may exercise without disclosing a basis for the request once in a case so long as it is presented prior to the commencement of the hearing or trial and before the judge has ruled on any substantial matters. Such substitution requests are common in domestic relations cases and when ruled upon, there is no direct avenue to appeal the resulting order—often entered at the nascent stages of a case.

With no immediate review available, the case must proceed to an appealable order before the substitution ruling can be considered by a higher court. Where reversal is warranted, the substitution order and all subsequently entered orders are void—a result with potentially dire financial and emotional consequences. This is particularly true in the domestic relations context, where reversal could mean the undoing of months and even years of orders relating to maintenance, child support, parenting time, decision-making, disposition of real property and other assets all of which must be relitigated anew. Parties and attorneys should consider and weigh the possibility of such a result in developing their case strategy.

Jamie R. Fisher, Partner

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