Private Judges: Not Just for the Famous

As in many divorces between celebrities, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have recently enlisted to a private judge. This announcement came in a joint press release, signaling that the divorce is moving towards a close. Many celebrities choose to go this route in their divorces and separations, and for good reason.

In the right situation, a private judge is the quickest, fairest, and easiest way to get a divorce. California is one of just a few states where private judges can act in divorce cases. As a result, many famous California residents turn to these judges to get divorced as efficiently as possible. But first: what is a private judge, anyway?

What Is a Private Judge?

Just like public judges, private judges are lawyers who entered the judiciary. In fact, the vast majority of private judges in California were public judges who retired from the public sphere. Private judges have experience in courts of law in a variety of situations. They have just removed themselves from public courts.

Instead, private judges work outside the public court system. They still act as a legal judge, but it isn’t necessary to go through the court system to work with them. Instead, they set hourly rates and disputing parties can agree to retain them as a judge at that rate. Their costs are split between the disputing parties.

Private judges are typically chosen by the parties’ attorneys working in concert. The disputing parties will choose an hourly rate they feel that they can fairly split, and their attorneys will find a local private judge with specific expertise in that range. Depending on the judge, hourly rates can range from $100 to $700 an hour. As a result, all disputing parties are incentivized to keep the proceedings streamlined.

Decisions made by a private judge are still considered legal judgements, and they are still subject to appellate review. Unlike arbitrated agreements, it’s possible to appeal a judgement by a private judge. It has all the benefits of an arbitrated agreement, without any of the drawbacks.

Of course, many people still use the traditional court system for and other judgements. That’s because private judges, while useful, are not for everyone. Different situations can make hiring a private judge more or less appealing, depending on the circumstance

When to Choose a Private Judge

Private judges might be the perfect choice for you and your former partner. They save you time and headaches in most cases. If you fall into the following categories, consider using a private judge for your divorce or separation.

Amicable Divorces

If you and your former partner can still communicate in a friendly manner, using a private judge will be simple. When you are both on the same page, your sessions with the private judge will be short and sweet. That will help the divorce process move along quickly for everyone. It will also keep the amount spent on the judge’s hourly rate from ballooning.

Complex Divorces

Private judges are best used in cases where having the judge’s full attention is important. In public courts, divorce judges are frequently balancing dozens of cases, all of which are at different points in the process. Private judges focus on your situation specifically, and they typically have less than a handful of other clients at once.

This is why so many celebrities, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie included, choose private judges. These types of high-profile, high-asset divorces involve a lot of moving parts. By using a private judge, the divorcing pair can guarantee that their case is being considered carefully. The result is a fair division of complicated assets.

Quick Divorces

Sometimes, time is of the essence. Divorces in public courts can drag out for months, or even years. Especially when courts are closed, as they are right now, divorce proceedings are sidelined and rescheduled frequently. If you’re looking for a quick divorce, a public court is not the answer.

Private judges are a quick answer for a quick divorce. Instead of having court dates regularly postponed and delayed, a private judge will help you take care of things in a timely fashion. This can also wind up keeping the cost of a divorce low. Instead of paying the hourly rate to have your attorney sit in court only to be dismissed due to a lack of time, you have a guaranteed time for your proceedings. You end up saving time and money simultaneously.

When to Avoid a Private Judge

Of course, there are situations where a private judge isn’t the answer. Some situations do call for the full public court experience. If you’re in one of the following scenarios, you might be better off working in the public courts.

Contentious Divorces

Private judges are not obligated to work with you the way public judges are. If you are in a contentious divorce, a private judge might not be for you. Private judges rarely hold anyone in contempt of court. If your partner is dragging their feet or acting vengeful or petty, a private judge is likely to simply drop you as clients rather than try to force civility.

Simple Divorces

If you and your former partner have clear. shared ideas on how to divide assets, you may not need a private judge. In cases where there aren’t many contentious assets or other disagreements, a public judge can work well. Arranging a private judge and meeting with them might take longer than just filing publicly in simple cases.

Divorcing celebrities have used private judges in California for decades. However, these figures can be a useful tool for people outside the public eye as well. If you’re looking for an efficient, equitable divorce, a private judge might be the right choice for you.

If you’re still not sure, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask an attorney. It’s always best to discuss your particular situation with an experienced divorce lawyer. They will be able to help you decide whether a private judge will help your divorce go more smoothly.

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