As we’ve discussed here before on this blog, many divorcing couples are increasingly finding that working with a retired judge to resolve their dissolution action is far preferable than attempting to litigate through the courts and/or having their respective attorneys go back and forth in negotiations for months and even years.
The main reasons for why working with a retired judge is often a better process – including limiting attorneys fees and achieving a resolution in a matter of days as opposed to years – are discussed further in our prior blog on this topic, but in this blog, we will go further into discussing the two primary processes by which a retired judge can help resolve your divorce quickly: through serving as a mediator in your case or as a private judge.
The Benefits of a Retired Judge Serving as Your Mediator
When you enlist the services of a retired judge to act as your mediator, you are not handing over decision making authority in your case to that judge. Instead you are asking that judge to work with both you and the other spouse and your attorneys to reach a deal on some or all of the issues in your case.
The judge will typically ask both parties to submit a “mediation brief” which lays out the facts and legal positions both sides are asserting, and the judge will review both mediation briefs prior to mediation. At the mediation, the judge will then conduct a series of conferences to try to resolve these issues, which generally include a mix of: 1) meeting with just the lawyers for both sides; 2) meeting with a single party and his or her lawyer; and 3) meeting with both parties and their lawyers.
In these conferences, the judge will attempt to determine what specific interests underlie the clashing positions that the parties have (e.g. the position may be that both parents want possession of the children’s Lego sets, but the underlying interest is that the parents know the child is attached to the Legos and could prefer more time with the parent who has them); explain how a court might be likely rule to on a given issue; and work with the parties to create potential compromises and agreements. The judge may or may not then oversee the drafting of
an interim or final agreement memo to resolve the issues.
One particular advantage of having a retired judge serving as your mediator is that, because of all of their years on the family law bench, they can be particularly compelling at getting parties to understand what they would actually be likely to get in going to court. Additionally, because active judges spend a lot of their time getting people to reach agreement in court, and are there to pick up the pieces when agreements don’t work, they have a keen understanding of creative solutions to disagreements and of what types of solutions will be durable and positive for the parties and what won’t.
The Benefits of a Retired Judge Serving as Your Private Judge
When a retired judge acts as a private judge in your case, they are quite literally given the power to decide the issues that you present to them via an appointment by the California court that has jurisdiction over your case. Which means the judge can issue orders in your case relating to property division, spousal support, child support, child custody, and other issues that you might be dealing with that have all the power of a court order handed down in a county courtroom.
Similarly, the private judge and the parties will abide by the applicable statutes that govern litigated divorce proceedings, including the civil procedure code, family code, and evidence code. As discussed in the prior blog, however, the proceedings are conducted in private (although filings are public), on a quick timetable convenient to the parties, and with the judge’s full, undivided attention (e.g. there will not be 19 other cases before your private judge at the same time as yours).
Thus, a key difference in having a retired judge serve as your private judge, as opposed to as a mediator, is that a private judge can offer finality in resolving your disputed issues, whereas a mediator can only do his or her best to get the parties to reach an agreement. That said, a private judge can also use his or her skills to help the parties work towards an agreement, although a private judge is more limited in what they can do in this area (e.g. they cannot meet with the parties separately).
In either case, if you have a disputed divorce matter which could take significant time and fees to resolve in the courts, you are wise to consider having a retired judge serve as a private judge or mediator in your matter.
Guidance on Your California Mediation Questions From a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney
If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance in seeking a private judge to resolve your matter or any other California family law issues you are facing in Ventura County or Los Angeles County, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740 or (818) 877-0001, or schedule your strategy session using easy-to-use online form here.