The Impact of Private Judging on Your Divorce

Litigation is one of the most common methods for resolving divorce proceedings. This process allows couples to have their case heard by a judicial officer who can issue legally binding rulings regarding disputes, including child custody, child support, spousal support, attorney fees, and asset division. However, many people feel uncomfortable with the public nature of pursuing a divorce in family courts. 

If you need to litigate your divorce, California offers a valuable alternative to the public court system. You can choose to hire a private judge to oversee your case, assist with case management and the mediation of issues, and issue rulings as needed. Private judging can protect your privacy, reduce delays in your divorce, and potentially result in more equitable judgments. 


Private judges, also known as judges pro tem, are typically retired judicial officers or very seasoned family law attorneys with significant experience overseeing civil and/or family law disputes. 

Private judges may issue rulings, orders, sanctions, and otherwise decide cases that litigants choose to bring before them. Their decisions are considered legally binding and enforceable by appellate courts. Most private judges handle significantly fewer cases than those in public courtrooms, allowing them to give each case more attention and time. 

Unless you have signed a contract stating otherwise, you are never obligated to agree to your case being heard by a private judge. Even if your spouse prefers to have your matter handled by a private judge, you must agree. Occasionally, parties to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement will agree that any future divorce proceeding will be handled by a private judge. 


There are several differences between litigating matters in a public court or with a private judge. The most important include:

  • Cost: As private judges do not operate through the public court system, they are compensated by their litigants. This is an additional cost that is not present in a public court case. However, if working with a private judge expedites your divorce proceeding, you may ultimately save money.
  • Choice: In public court, your case will be assigned to a judge. When working with a private judge, you and your spouse can select and stipulate to the judge.
  • Scheduling: Temporary judges generally have control over their schedules, unlike public court judges, allowing these judges to take on fewer cases and give each case the attention it deserves. 


Many people may benefit from choosing to work with a private judge. The additional attention, discretion, and efficiency offered by these judges can be invaluable. You may find that hiring a private judge to oversee your divorce is the best solution if you fall into one of the following categories.

Couples With Significant Assets

If you have significant marital property, a private judge may help you resolve your divorce dispute more equitably and with less stress. High-asset divorces require careful attention to detail.

Private litigation ensures your case receives the attention it deserves. The private judge will have the time to thoroughly examine and understand the details of your case. As such, they will be better prepared to issue rulings that address each party’s relevant concerns. 

Spouses in the Public Eye

Similarly, if you or your spouse is frequently in the public eye, private judging may help you reclaim your privacy during this difficult time. Many high-profile celebrities and individuals elect to have their divorces overseen by private judges to ensure that the details of their finances and disputes remain as private as possible. 

People With Tight Timelines

You may also benefit from a private judge if you wish to expedite your proceeding. You will not have to risk delays due to crowded courts or conflicting schedules. You and your spouse will be able to work directly with the judge and your attorneys to schedule times and locations for each hearing that are convenient meet your scheduling needs.

As a result, you will face significantly fewer delays in dissolving your marriage. With a private judge, it is possible to finalize all aspects of your divorce before the end of California’s mandatory six-month waiting period, allowing you to move on with your life as soon as possible. 


If you are interested in working with a private judge, it is to your benefit to work with divorce attorneys who are experienced appearing before private judges. At Madigan & Lewis, LLP, we have years of experience guiding clients like you through divorces with discretion in various litigation settings. Schedule your consultation today for more information.

The material contained herein has been prepared by Madigan & Lewis, LLP for informational purposes only, not legal advice. This information is not intended to create – and receipt of it does not constitute – a lawyer-client relationship between Madigan & Lewis, LLP and the reader. This website is intended to provide information about our law firm and its services and is not guaranteed to be up-to-date or complete. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.