Many people first heard about the use of “private judges” during the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston divorce several years ago. California is one of a number of states that allow private judges to more quickly resolve a divorce while keeping personal details out of the limelight.
Celebrities may choose this process because, unlike a public trial, journalists and other inquisitive parties have no right to attend proceedings or listen to arguments about property division and child custody. For many divorcing couples, the most important advantage is avoiding lengthy court dockets to speed up judicial resolution of a divorce.
“Trial by Special Judge” under Chapter 151 of the Texas statutes provides for the appointment of private judges in civil and family law matters on agreement of the parties to the case. All issues of law and fact can be referred from the district court, meaning everything from determinations of complex marital property issues to visitation schedules and parenting plans. While parties are not entitled to a jury trial, they retain their right to appeal.
To be eligible for appointment in divorce cases, private judges in Texas must be former district court, county court or appellate court judges who served for at least four years and have substantial experience in family law matters. They must also demonstrate ongoing continuing legal education participation related to developments in Texas divorce law.
Neal, Ashmore & Killebrew’s own Jake Collier is a retired Denton County District Judge, as well as former Lewisville Municipal Judge, who is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. His experience as a private judge in Texas family law matters is available to parties seeking to expedite a divorce and reduce the legal costs of a drawn-out dispute.
Source: NPR, Private Judge Handles Aniston-Pitt Divorce