Q&A: Are Private Family Law Judges Only for Rich People and Celebrities?

What is the deal with private divorce judges? Are they just for rich people?

In a word, I would say that it sort of works out to be the case. It is not that the system is designed that only rich people and celebrities are entitled to that level of privacy but in practice, who else is going to cough up that much money just so that a private divorce judge can hear their case?

Brad and Angelina issued a joint statement saying that they would use a private judge to hear the rest of their divorce dispute. And many other celebrities, billionaires and notables have avoided public scrutiny and used the private law judges in lieu of the public court system – for obvious reasons: maximum privacy.

Do they get what they paid for? To a large extent yes because the case is heard privately and no one other than the parties and their lawyers are entitled or allowed to attend the hearings. But the case is still obviously going to be filed in a public court and it can be appealed and so it is never really completely a private situation, to my understanding.

Added to that, it should be noted that private law judges are not cheap. In less than one week, parties in a divorce action can pay close to 100K to enjoy the services of a private law judge. Of course if they are rich this is not a huge sum. If they are middle class, though, it could be a significant sum to pay for the privilege of keeping the divorce private.

One of the main advantages with private law judges is that the cases move a lot quicker through the dockets because the backlog that exists in traditional courts simply are not there.

One disadvantage is that there is less security as there are no court personnel as in traditional courts. If a spouse is violent and crazy, this could easily veer out of control.
It does not seem like a private law judge would make sense for someone without the financial means to spend disposable income on such a luxury as a private judge. Other than the privacy issue and the speed issue, it is not like the judge will rule any differently in or out of your favor just because they are private. So why spend that money for something with so little perks.