Private Judges in Divorce
In the widely reported marital split of Jolie vs. Pitt, Angelina Jolie filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking the removal of private Judge John W. Ouderkirk. Jolie’s attorneys alleged that the Judge failed to disclose a conflict of interest.
Their case can be cited as the catalyst for the rising popularity of private judges retained to resolve high profile, high conflict divorces fairly, economically, quickly, and confidentially. Florida permits the use of private judges in accordance pursuant to Section 44.104, Florida Statutes, which states:
“a private lawyer (who must be a member of The Florida Bar in good standing for more than 5 years) acts as the Trial Resolution Judge by agreement of the parties. … Parties may agree to have a matter heard by a Trial Resolution Judge before or after a lawsuit is filed.”
A private judge is generally a retired judge who is well known and has a long history and reputation in the community. Your attorney would be responsible for obtaining a competent, impartial, and fair judge in agreement with the spouse. Many practicing private judges publish their credentials online, which provides you with an opportunity to do your research. However, a judge’s reputation is best known by experienced practitioners who have tried cases before them.
The Benefits of a Private Judge
Perhaps the most significant benefit obtained from acquiring a private judge is the rare opportunity to pick a judge that the parties agree is fair and reasonable. Good lawyers always consider likely outcomes in any case from the outset, and the fallout that comes with it. Because we are often dealing with young children, the outcome of these cases can have a considerable impact on their young lives. If both parties agree in the beginning that the decision-maker is fair and reasonable, long term problems may be avoided or minimized.
The Courts have busy dockets and rigid schedules. A private judge provides the parties with flexibility and convenience in scheduling hearings. In the Courtroom, the laws of procedure, evidence, and discovery are in play. The parties can make agreements concerning such matters that can significantly streamline the litigation process with a private judge. This results in considerable savings of both time and money. Opportunities for agreement may increase, even in high conflict cases with complex issues. A private judge can guide this process. Less conflict means the possibility of a negotiated settlement as well. Even the process of agreeing on the private judge may help de-escalate conflict between the parties.
Don’t underestimate the emotional stress and costs of lengthy delays associated with the traditional litigation process. Justice delayed is often justice denied. The longer the case goes on, the more difficult it is to maintain privacy.
The Privacy Factor
The litigants’ privacy may be the primary factor in deciding to retain a private judge. Other celebrities who have used private judges include Jennifer Aniston, Pamela Anderson, and Michael Jackson. In complex cases involving high assets, privacy is usually in both parties’ interests.
Private judges are expensive. But they bring a lifetime of experience and wisdom to the table. They bear a heavy burden as decision-makers in high stakes and complex cases. However, the benefits are many, and both parties may save a small fortune compared to the traditional trial route.
Choosing the right judge may be the most critical negotiation of your case. Your attorney should provide you with the necessary information about the private judge they are recommending. Retired judges often have a long record and presence in the community. So, you can do your research.
It may not be possible for both parties to agree to this process in a contentious divorce. There are cases where decorum and formality of the courtroom are necessary. But the advantages of private judges are many for all involved in the process.
The experienced lawyers at Brodie Friedman, P.A. will help you effectively negotiate complex divorce issues and create a fair property settlement agreement, parenting plan, and other components of your divorce agreement. If all issues (equitable distribution, alimony, child support) cannot be decided through negotiation or divorce mediation, remaining concerns can be litigated. We are dedicated to your interests and goals, whether by a negotiated solution or in divorce litigation.
With over 30 years of combined experience, Jason Brodie Esq. and Joshua Friedman Esq. will guide you toward realistic goals and provide committed advocacy toward achieving them. They are known throughout South Florida for dedicated client service, tenacity, and success in complex divorce litigation involving property division, child custody, and spousal support.
To get a better understanding of the qualities our reputation is built on, contact our office in Boca Raton to schedule your initial phone consultation (561) 392-5100