Surprisingly, working with a private judge to resolve your issues and finalize your divorce can be relatively inexpensive; keeping costs in the neighborhood of hundreds dollars as opposed to the thousands of dollars. It really depends on your personal situation and whether your purpose for using a private judge is to speed up the processing of your documents with the courts, or whether you need the private judge to hold hearings and trials. Please contact Divorce Helpline and we can consult with you to give specific price information.
Private Judges and Divorce
A private judge can give you a legally binding decision regarding your divorce, without you needing to go to court or use the usual court process. A private judge can also help expedite the process, save you money and protect your privacy. You can learn more about our private judge services here. Our articles address many of the benefits of using a private judge. If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Can using a private judge keep my divorce documents confidential?
Maybe. In some cases, using a private judge may allow you to keep information about your divorce agreement out of the public record, including the details of who got what, who has custody of the children, who is paying support and how much, etc. With more courts progressing to digital records that can be searched online, the idea of public records with the details of divorce agreements being easily accessible is a growing concern.
Whether your agreement can be kept out of the public record depends in large part on the county in which your divorce is filed (not necessarily where you currently live) and whether or not that jurisdiction allows for certain divorce documents to remain private. We have helped many people, including celebrities, keep the details of a divorce private by strategically selecting the court in which they file for divorce. If you are at all interested in this option, consult with an attorney at Divorce Helpline to find out if options are available to you.
Can a private judge shorten the time it takes to get a divorce?
Yes and no. Every divorce in California is subject to the “6-month rule” as required by law. This cannot be reduced by a private judge. However, using a private judge can help to significantly reduce the amount of time that it takes to get a divorce finalized after the 6 months have passed. Using the private judge option can be also be extremely valuable in providing predictability and control over when your divorce will be final!
The “6-month rule” means that under California law, your divorce cannot be finalized, and you cannot be returned to the status of a single person, until a minimum of six months and one day have passed from the time your spouse is either served with a Petition and Summons, or the service requirement is otherwise met (speak to a Divorce Helpline attorney about how to avoid personal service of documents. In an amicable divorce setting, this is often recommended). However, because of the strain on the court system in California and the budget issues which have only worsened that strain, it can often take much longer to navigate a divorce through the courts, sometimes as much as one year from the time an agreement is reached and your final documents are submitted to the court for final approval. Using a private judge allows you to bypass the majority of the processing of paperwork with the courts and waiting for a judge of the Superior Court to get around to your file, which can reduce this timeframe to about one month. Knowing and controlling when your divorce is final is desired by many people, especially for those who would benefit by having their divorce final by the end of any given calendar year.
A private judge can also help you resolve issues and provide a legally binding decision that will be filed with the court. This can be done in a matter of days or weeks, not months or years.
The private judge option can be a valuable one, but it’s not necessary for all situations. If you are at all curious about whether your situation would benefit from this option, contact Divorce Helpline for a no obligation evaluation by one of our attorneys.
Keeping California Court Delays from Impacting Your Divorce
Although California law states that a couple can be divorced in six months and one day from the time one spouse is correctly served with proper divorce documents by the other, the reality is that it can take much, much longer. One of the biggest culprits is the massive delays in the California court system.
Staggering budget cuts have resulted in the closure of 175 courtrooms across the state. Every single Superior Court system in California is experiencing extended waiting times and postponements. In some counties, this means that it can take months or years to make it through the system, even in uncontested divorce cases. For example, initial divorce documents filed in Los Angeles County in April of 2013 were not being processed until December.
Fortunately, we can help couples expedite the necessary steps needed to obtain a divorce so that their lives aren’t put on hold because of the clogged California judicial system. Our mediation services, private judges and divorce packages are some of the ways that we can help ease the frustration and stress for those seeking a divorce or legal separation.
We recently worked with two couples in different California counties who let us know in December that they were anxious to have their cases finalized by the end of the year. Although we don’t recommend cutting it this close, by using private judge services and couriers who were able to work effectively with the court clerks, we helped both couples obtain final judgments in their cases by December 31.
Our mediation and private judge services can greatly minimize the need to interact with the courts. If you choose a divorce package with or without mediation, we can help streamline the process and handle all of your document preparation and filing. Over the past 25 years, we have developed strong relationships with court personnel and understand the ins and outs of the various court systems throughout the state.
The divorce process is challenging enough without the added anxiety of dealing with a court system that leaves many couples dangling in legal limbo. If you want to avoid a prolonged delay in settling your divorce, please call 1-800-359-7004 to speak with me or one of our other attorneys. We are happy to discuss your options and help you find the best solution to meet your needs.
Keeping Your Divorce Documents Out of the Public Eye
Many people are interested in preserving privacy about personal matters during the divorce process. Divorce filings are routinely part of the public record, which can be requested by anyone. And with the increased digitization of court records, there is cause for even greater concern. You can already search bankruptcy records online for cases filed after 2003.
The primary concerns we hear from clients concerned about maintaining confidentiality in their divorce proceedings include child custody arrangements, sensitive financial account details, information regarding debt or bankruptcy and other matters that could negatively impact or endanger them and their families.
While it used to be that only the rich and famous were able to keep their divorce documents such as a Marital Settlement Agreement out of the public record—usually at great expense—we have had success in helping our clients achieve this without excessive costs.
In some instances, using our Private Judge services makes it easier to seal parts of the divorce records. In other cases, we have been able to have the Master Settlement Agreement returned to our clients once the paperwork for the judgment has been filed.
If you would like to learn more about how to maintain confidentiality during your divorce, please give us a call at 1-800-359-7004 to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.
Your privacy is important, and we want to help you maintain it.
Tax Implications of Divorce Timing
As we approach the end of the year, we start getting lots of calls and questions from people who have concerns about the timing of their divorce and how it may impact their tax liability.
This is because federal income tax status is primarily determined by your marital status on the last day of the tax year. In other words, if you are divorced any time on or before December 31, your tax filing status for the year will be single, or in some cases, head of household if you are paying a percentage of costs to support a dependent minor.
If you are still married on December 31, the IRS will view you as being married for the entire year, and you have the option of filing as “married filing separately” or “married filing jointly.”
In the simplest of terms, your tax filing status combined with your taxable income for the year will define your tax liability. But as you are undoubtedly aware, taxes may be a certainty, but they are rarely simple. And when divorce is involved, complications can quickly arise.
For example, spousal support will impact your tax liability. If you are paying spousal support, you can claim a tax break. If you are receiving spousal support, you will have to report it as taxable income. Custody arrangements may play a role in your taxes. If you have primary custody of your children, you can take advantage of head of household status and benefit from a higher tax deduction.
In the final months of the year, the courts begin to become clogged with cases because of an onslaught of people trying to make the December 31 deadline. As a result, delays ensue that often push final judgments out into the new year.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways that we have helped couples meet the deadline, even late in the year. One option is our Private Judge service. A private judge can process your paperwork and get your divorce completed in a much shorter time than the public courts can typically manage.
In addition, Divorce Helpline can help by drafting a limited judgment that may allow you to terminate your marital status even when you have unresolved issues. Essentially, this judgment declares to the court that you want to proceed with your divorce, and that you will solve outstanding issues later.
If you would like to learn more about options that can help expedite your divorce process in order to establish a date of marital termination prior to December 31, please contact our offices at 1-800-359-7004.