New Divorce Law Allows Hiring of Private Judge for Quicker Resolution

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Dec 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

One of the main complaints about Alabama divorce cases is they have the propensity to drag on.


Now, there is a potential solution in the form of a new law that went into effect in July, allowing parties in civil and domestic courts to hire their own private judge.

Our Birmingham divorce attorneys know that, just as with any other type of court, domestic relations courts have extensive backlogs with which to contend. When everything has to be done according to a proper procedure while giving both sides ample time to prepare, it can take months to get finalization  – particularly when cases are more complex.

The law, Act 2012-266, authorizes a private judge list, which is maintained y the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution. In order to qualify to be placed on the list, judges have to have at least six years of experience on the bench in the area for which they are sought to be hired. As of right now, there are 22 judges on that list, many of them retired.

As of yet, not many have taken advantage of the law. In fact, only two divorce cases have so far been handled by private judges – one back in August and one last month.

But with more and more people becoming aware of the new statute, we may be seeing an increasing number of these cases.

Whether you can benefit from a private judge is going to depend on your particular situation. Of course, it is going to cost you money upfront to pay for the judge's time. However, you may in the long run end up saving a good deal of money – and time – by going this route because you're probably going to reach a faster resolution.

You won't have to be placed on a docket behind hundreds of others to have your case heard. You don't have the risk of getting ready for trial, requesting that time off work – only to find out the proceedings have to be delayed due to court scheduling conflicts.

Your case can be heard and resolved at a much faster clip – and you may get a more careful weighing of  the facts because the judge is only listening to one case at a time: Yours.

Just like any other divorce case, the judge is going to hear both sides of the dispute, though motions will be filed through the state's court system. That is also where the judge's decisions will be filed. When a final decision is reached, if one party is not satisfied, he or she has the ability to appeal to the state appellate court.

This option may be particularly attractive to couples whose case may have been going on for quite some time and they would really just like to put some closure to everything and be able to move on.

Both sides have to agree to do this in order for it to work, so if your spouse refuses, you'll simply have to go through the usual state court route.

So far, such cases have been heard in private law offices, though some exploration is being done to have the proceedings conducted in unused state courtrooms in order to allay security concerns.

At least seven other states allow the use of private judges in divorce cases, though interestingly, courts in the United Kingdom and the Virgin Islands have expressed interest in studying Alabama's model.

If you are contemplating a divorce in Birmingham, contact Birmingham Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

Additional Resources:

Hiring a private judge for your case in Alabama, few taking advantage of new law, Nov. 23, 2012, By Kent Faulk, Alabama Live

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama


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