Should You Hire A Private Judge for Your Divorce?

by Miod and Company

It goes without saying that divorce is an extremely stressful and tumultuous experience no matter how you go about it. When it comes to the official and legal aspects of your divorce, though, there may be a way to make the process a little easier. Hiring a private judge to handle your divorce case can be a much more efficient, personalized experience than taking your case to the public courts. While it’s not the best option for everyone everywhere, it’s definitely one you should consider. 

What is a private judge?

When it comes to divorce, a private judge is someone you and your spouse would hire to handle your divorce case in place of the courthouse judge. Since this judge would be hired separately by you, they are not employed by the state and are not part of any traditional public court system– this also means that unlike a public judge, they are not salaried, but rather paid by you. A private judge may be retired, or they could be a qualified licensed attorney. 

How does the divorce process work with a private judge?

When you hire a private judge, you should first create an agreement for how the process will go. Ultimately, the main point of hiring a private judge is that you have control over what sort of powers they will have over your case, and you are also able to determine your own rules specific to your divorce– this means that, if you choose, the case wouldn’t have to abide by the local rules of court in your jurisdiction. You may also determine a certain point at which it would be necessary to take the case to the public courts. Once you figure this out and create an agreement, it will be signed by your counsel before being approved by your private judge and, ultimately, the presiding judge in your county. 

How do the private and public processes differ?

For the most part, hiring a private judge is simply a more efficient process than dealing with the public court. Both processes include most of the same constitutional protections, but the benefits of a private judge can make the process much quicker, more seamless, and as painless as possible. Here are a few of the differences:

Case management and strategy

A private judge is more likely to be granted case management powers. When it comes to a divorce case, case management means considering the desires and needs of both you and your spouse and working to create the quickest, best possible solution. Different states have different laws around case management, so a public judge may not even be legally allowed to handle it. Even if your state does grant public judges case management powers, public judges are often so swamped with work that they don’t have time for case management, and they also may not have a lot of the background needed to do a good job of it. A private judge is the best option to settle your case with effective and creative settlement strategies. 

Witnesses

Trial is often very similar in private and public courts because of due process, but there is a difference when it comes to using expert witness reports. When you hire a private judge, the report of a neutral or court-appointed expert will be used in court as evidence rather than a direct testimony. The expert will only be called to witness for cross-examination of this report. 

Location

Another difference between using a private judge rather than a public court is the location of the proceedings. While public proceedings are held in the courthouse, public facilities are often forbidden and are nearly never an option when it comes to proceedings before a private judge. 

Scheduling

Scheduling in public courts can be a real headache. Often, your trials won’t be able to be scheduled from day to day and are broken up over the calendar. This means inconvenient placements and half days– which can cost you a lot of money, not to mention efficiency. Luckily, the scheduling process is easier when it comes to using a private judge. Most of the time, except for in extremely rare cases, all of your hearings, case management meetings, and trials will be scheduled by agreement of the counsel and private judge, making it as convenient as possible for you. Your trials can be scheduled around your needs as well as the schedules of your attorneys and experts, and they can be conducted day to day until they’re complete. The process will be as seamless and time-effective as possible, with your best interest and your time in mind. 

Ethical rules

For the most part, the ethical rules of private and public judges are the same. Ex parte communication isn’t allowed, conflicts of interest should be avoided, etc. However, public judges tend to have stricter rules. You may see this as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. A private judge will likely understand your issues better, but a close relationship with a lawyer might make them biased. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, hiring a private judge to handle your divorce case offers more flexibility, creativity, and efficiency. It allows for a more personalized process than the public courts do while still maintaining all of the necessary protections and checks and balances. If all of this sounds appealing to you and you’ve considered all the necessary factors like the cost of a private judge as well as the qualifications of the judges available to you, it’s definitely an option you should look into! A private judge can streamline the process and take some of the headache out of an already stressful time in your life. 

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