Private Judging

Over the past several years, across-the-board budget cuts for court services in the State of California have made it difficult for individuals to obtain timely legal relief, especially in the family courts. These budget cuts have the effect of taxing the Court’s already busy litigation calendar and have led to widespread delays in the resolution of cases or judicial officers who simply do not have the appropriate amount of time to adjudicate cases effectively. Currently, the Orange County Family Law Court has suggested that cases be resolved within 18 months from the date that they are brought before the Court. More often than not, this timeline is not achieved. The result is that parties are often forced to delay the disposition of their case or settle their case for less than that to which they are entitled.

Due to the delay attendant with the setting and disposition of family court cases, many parties to family law actions have begun to seek more cost-effective and time-efficient means of resolving the dispute presented in their cases. One such tool is private judging. Private judging is utilized as an alternative to the public courts and involves the use of a retired family court judge (or less frequently, a family law attorney), who is jointly appointed by the parties’ agreement to resolve some or all of the disputes presented in a case under applicable California family law. Once it is agreed between the parties to hire a private judge, a formal Stipulation and Order will be drafted whereby the private judicial officer will be vested with the same authority to make all judicial decisions and orders as are available to the litigants through the public courts.

Private family law judges are retired judges of the courts of California or experienced family law attorneys. They have significant experience in handling any and all matters that present themselves in both simple and complex litigations and are equipped to adjudicate any number of issues in a case, including, divorce, legal separation, domestic partnerships, child and spousal support, parentage or paternity disputes, annulment, property division, business division and disposition, and other family law-related matters.

There are several substantial benefits to private judging, including:

– Significantly reducing the time between the beginning of a litigation and its ultimate end;
– Giving the parties litigation priority to be heard where it otherwise might not be in the public courts;
– Lowering the cost attendant with litigation;
– Protecting the privacy of litigants who do not wish to have their intimate details become public record;
– Unlike some judges who may not be well-acquainted with California family law during their stay on the Family Law Panel, private judges often have several decades of experience judging family matters and are, therefore, more specialized and experienced to handle issues that are unique to family law cases;
– Private judges can be retained to serve in a limited scope on singular issues or can be retained to preside over the entirety of a case; and
– Crafting unique settlements or agreements that otherwise might not be granted in a public court.

For more information about private judging and whether it is the best option for resolving your California family law case, contact our office today to arrange a consultation with one of PWGGC’s family lawyers.

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