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Can I call the Family Court Judge to ask what the holdup is?

By Spodek Law Group | July 27, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 13, 2023)

Last Updated on: 13th October 2023, 08:22 pm

Can I Call the Family Court Judge to Ask What the Holdup Is?

Going through a divorce or child custody case can be an incredibly stressful and emotional time. You put your trust in the legal system to handle your case fairly and efficiently. So when there are significant delays or you feel your case is not progressing, it’s normal to get anxious and want answers. You may wonder if it’s okay to call the judge directly to find out what’s causing the holdup.

The short answer is – yes, you can call the court to inquire about scheduling or status updates, but no, you cannot speak directly to the judge about your case. Judges have strict rules about ex parte communications, meaning they are ethically prohibited from discussing details of pending cases with either party outside of the courtroom. However, court personnel can provide information on case status and upcoming court dates. Here’s what you need to know:

Contact the Clerk’s Office, Not the Judge

Your first call should be to the clerk of court’s office, not the judge’s chambers. The court clerk handles all case filings, scheduling, and administrative matters. They can look up your case in the court’s database and give you information like:

  • If any motions, orders, or other documents have been filed recently
  • When the next hearing or conference is scheduled
  • If the judge issued any recent rulings or orders
  • General case status and next steps

The clerk cannot provide any information or opinion on how the judge may rule on your case. But they can confirm if a decision is still pending or provide other basic facts about scheduling and paperwork. This is your best source for objective information on what is happening behind the scenes.

See If Your Case Is Subject to Time Guidelines

Many family courts have case processing time guidelines they try to adhere to. For example, custody cases in California should generally go to trial within six months of filing the petition.

Ask the clerk if your state or county has any mandated timelines for family cases. If so, this gives you a reference point for gauging any delays.You can also request a copy of your court docket sheet from the clerk. The docket lists all activities in chronological order, so you can see how long it’s been since any filings or hearings. Track key dates to get a better sense of the case pace.

Send a Letter to the Judge

If your case seems to be lagging with no action for many months, you can send a polite letter to the judge requesting a status update. Keep the tone respectful and avoid venting frustrations or accusations. Stick to just requesting information on your case status and upcoming events. The judge may have their clerk respond with more details on expected timelines.Some family courts even have a form or template you can submit to request a status conference with the judge. The court will usually schedule it within 30 days of receiving the request. This gives you an opportunity to address case delays in person.

Factor In Common Court Delays

Before getting anxious over a lack of progress, recognize that some delays are normal. Family courts have huge caseloads and judges often cover multiple locations. It’s not uncommon for a few months to pass between hearings while waiting for orders or reports. Some other typical holdups include:

  • Missing paperwork – The judge may be waiting on financial documents, custody evaluations, or other vital records from both parties before issuing rulings.
  • Counsel delays – Attorneys notoriously ask for extensions and continuances that the judge often grants. Opposing counsel’s schedule can impact case pace.
  • Full courtroom calendars – Judges may only allocate certain days a month for family cases. If the docket is full, hearings get bumped to the next available date.
  • Appeals – If either party appeals, the case stalls until the appeal gets reviewed by a higher court. This can add months.
  • Change in counsel – If either party decides to switch lawyers mid-case, it derails progress until the new attorney gets up to speed.

Talk to your attorney if you have serious concerns over stalled case progress. They have experience with that court’s norms and can advise if any delay seems abnormal. They can also speak directly to the judge’s clerk for insider case status details that court staff may not share with you directly.If you don’t have a lawyer, consider consulting a local family law attorney before calling the judge. Even just a one-time strategy session can give you expert perspective on appropriate next steps. They may recommend writing a formal request for a status conference or filing a motion to compel if a ruling is overdue.

Don’t Annoy the Judge

As frustrating as delays might be, avoid the temptation to vent your frustrations directly to the judge or make demands. No matter how justified your complaints may be, judges don’t appreciate being told how to manage their caseload. A disgruntled call from a party may even bias the judge against you.You have every right to inquire about your case status through proper channels. But lobbying complaints or applying pressure is likely to backfire. Seek procedural updates from court staff, confer with counsel, and weigh your options. With some patience and strategic follow-up, you can keep your case on track.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I fire my attorney if I’m unhappy with the case delays?

You can discharge your lawyer at any time. However, it will further slow down your case. The new attorney has to get up to speed, which can take weeks or months. You may also have to go through fee disputes with your prior counsel. It’s smarter to have a frank talk with your lawyer about delays before taking any drastic steps.

What should I do if my ex is deliberately stalling the case?

Unfortunately, it’s common for one party to intentionally drag their feet by withholding documents or postponing hearings. If you believe the other side is deliberately causing delays, speak to your attorney about options like filing a motion to compel or requesting sanctions from the judge.

How can I prepare for status conferences with the judge?

Come armed with a case timeline showing important dates and gaps with no action. Bring copies of any overdue financial records or unresolved motions. Stick to facts and avoid emotional venting. Politely but firmly request that the judge intervene to get your case back on track.

Is it a good idea to send the judge letters or emails?

No, judges typically cannot accept direct communications from parties about pending cases. Anything you send will just end up in the case file for the other side to see. Status inquiries should go through proper court channels like the clerk’s office.

What if the delays are negatively impacting my children?

If visitation disputes or custody limbo is causing harm to your kids, emphasize this in status requests. Judges tend to prioritize cases where children are being directly affected by the legal impasse. Provide specific examples of how the standstill is troubling your children.

How long should I wait before following up on a pending order?

There’s no set timeline, but 30 days is reasonable for most counties. If it’s been over a month with no ruling on a vital petition, it’s fair to politely inquire about status through the clerk and/or your attorney. Just avoid pestering the court repeatedly.

Can I file a complaint against the judge for mishandling my case?

You can file a complaint, but think twice before going that route. Ethical complaints rarely impact a judge’s caseload approach. It may just anger the judge and undermine your credibility. Focus instead on procedural next steps to get your case on track.

What should I do if the delays are causing me financial hardship?

Inform the judge if the case standstill is hurting you financially, such as preventing you from getting a loan or refinancing. Ask about expediting hearings or rulings on financial matters like support and asset division to relieve any hardship. Provide evidence of the monetary impacts.


It’s frustrating when a divorce or custody case seems endlessly bogged down. The legal system often moves slower than we’d like. While you can contact the court clerk to politely inquire about scheduling and status, refrain from calling the judge directly. Follow proper procedures, seek legal guidance, and don’t overreact. With strategic persistence and patience, you can keep your case moving in the right direction.


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