At times, the Texas court-system can get backlogged or experience delays and postponements, leaving parties with little control over scheduling and expediency. To assuage this issue, there is a growing trend of parties seeking private trials to serve as arbitrators in lieu of the public court system. The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code allows parties to use private judges in civil and family law matters, if both parties agree. Unlike with the public court system, those seeking a private judge are able to select who hears their case, rather than being subject to the “lottery” in traditional legal proceedings. This affords individuals the opportunity to find someone who is well versed in the field, at a time that is convenient for all parties.
In a private trial, a private judge in family law cases is typically a former family law judge or family law attorney who is hired to hear cases and reach binding legal decisions. A private judge will preside over every aspect of the case, from discovery to testimony. At the conclusion, the judge renders a binding decision that becomes enforceable once confirmed by the court. Private judges are usually retired district judges who have served on the bench at least four years and have all of the same powers as a district judge in Texas, such as ruling on motions, issuing temporary orders, issuing temporary injunctions and holding bench trials. Unlike with the public court system, those seeking a private judge are able to select who hears their case.
Judgements rendered in a private trial have same force and effect as judgments in public court trials. Trials can proceed without unwanted interruptions and delays of the public court system, because the schedule of all parties can be easily accommodated by the private judge.
Picking a Judge: The parties have the chance to make sure they have a judge they know and trust to rule fairly.
Ease of Scheduling: The parties are not at the mercy of the court’s schedule so they can pick a date and time that is least intrusive in their lives.
Privacy: Private judges are not allowed to hear cases in the courthouse, so the hearing takes place in more private locations – this may be more comfortable for the sensitive topics that often come up in family law matters.
Saving Time: Parties can ensure that the case heard faster than if they waited for the district court, usually within one month – this is especially important for family law issues so that people can resolve matters and move on with their lives.
There are many reasons a private trial may work for you, but one aspect of hiring private judges that makes arbitration a difficult or unrealistic avenue for some people is cost. By going outside the public court system, individuals may rack up thousands of dollars paying a private judge.
Another potential downfall of family law arbitration is the appeals process. Unlike the public court system, which has fixed guidelines on how to appeal a decision, it is more difficult to appeal the ruling of a private judge. To determine if a private judge is the right choice for your circumstances, schedule a consultation with one of our partners today.