Private judging is a unique approach to finalizing a divorce between two parties without following the standard timeline that would typically apply when litigating a divorce in the California family court system. If you and your spouse are considering moving forward with obtaining a divorce but want to learn more about your options before filing your case, private judging is a great place to start your research.
Private Judge in California
Attorney Neil Forester focuses his law practice on resolving family law disputes outside the courtroom. As the owner and founder of Forester Family Law PC., he has developed a virtual law firm, allowing him to help clients located all over the state of California.
The nature of Neil’s law practice offers significant benefits to his busy clients. Neil generally schedules meetings, mediation sessions, consultations, and other events to take place online whenever possible, and he also offers flexible scheduling hours.
With his firm, Forester Family Law PC., Neil Forester assists his clients with divorce dispute resolution, finalizing divorce settlement agreements, and resolving various disputes that often arise in the realm of family law. Neil uses a blend of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods and discrete advisory counseling to help his clients work through these disputes to arrive at a satisfactory solution. His practice prioritizes confidential and amicable out-of-court solutions, including private judging.
Attorney Neil Forester has over 198 years of experience litigating divorce, custody, and other family law cases. With some of these cases going all the way to trial before a family court judge, Neil has gained substantial litigation experience, which affords him an insider perspective when it comes to the reality of what the parties can expect if their case must go to trial. Neil’s clients benefit from his experience litigating cases in front of family court judges, as he can provide an in-depth explanation of what his clients can expect if their case must go that route.
Who Should Consider Private Judging?
There are many different scenarios in which hiring a private judge may be the best option for you and your spouse. One example in which it may be beneficial to choose a private judge would be if you and your spouse have significant marital property and assets. Since a divorce involving substantial marital finances and assets requires careful attention to detail, it is beneficial to choose a private judge to ensure that your case receives the attention it deserves so that a fair outcome is obtained.
A unique, but not unheard-of scenario in which private judging also tends to be a good idea is a divorce case involving parties who are in the public eye. While you and your spouse may not necessarily be considered celebrities—one or both of you may be well known enough that your divorce could draw some unwanted attention. By hiring a private judge, you can avoid some of the public scrutiny that you would experience if you litigated the case in the public California family law courts.
Finally, if you and your spouse really want to expedite the process of finalizing your divorce, hiring a private judge is a great option to consider. When you hire a private judge to preside over your case, you have the benefit of avoiding overcrowded courtrooms and not having to deal with continuous schedule conflicts. Instead, hearings in your case can be scheduled in accordance with dates, times, and locations that work for you and your spouse, your judge, and any other attorneys involved in your case.
The convenience, efficiency, privacy, and flexibility that private judging can offer parties seeking a divorce make this approach an option that is certainly worth considering. To learn more about the process so that you can decide if it is the right choice for you, contact Forrester Family Law, PC. Today.
How Does Private Judging Work?
Once you have decided to hire a private judge to handle your divorce case, you and your spouse will typically attend an initial consultation with the judge to learn more about what you can expect as your case moves forward toward a final resolution.
At this time, you should also have a solid understanding of the fees you can expect to pay. If you have any questions about the process, the initial consultation meeting is the best time to ask so that you are fully informed before going into the next stage.
With private judging, the process is similar to what you would expect during traditional litigation, except it tends to be more streamlined and expedited. Often, a divorcing couple is able to obtain rulings on disputed issues sooner than they would in traditional family court. A case held before a private judge is not subject to the same common delays that often hold up the California family court system, such as overcrowded dockets and other issues.
When a case before a private judge is ready for a final resolution on the merits, a trial can be held just like in any other case. The private judge hired by the parties can preside over a trial during which evidence may be presented, and witnesses can testify. After the trial, the judge will then issue a ruling, which is legally binding. If necessary, either party can choose to exercise their right to appeal the ruling.
As a litigator with nearly two decades of experience with the California family law court system, Neil Forester is extremely well-versed in the California Family Code. This extensive experience, coupled with his litigation skills, makes Neil an excellent choice as a private judge available for California residents contemplating divorce.
What Are the Benefits of Choosing Private Judging?
There are many benefits of choosing private judging over traditional family courts. One major advantage of private judging is that it often expedites the entire process, which also carries with it the benefit of saving time and money.
Private judging eliminates many of the routine delays that often come with traditional litigation in civil courts. Most private judges tend to handle a significantly fewer number of cases than judges handle in public court rooms. With fewer cases to manage, private judges in the area of family law are able to give each of their cases more personal attention and time.
With a private judge, you also have the benefit of more certainty in the judge’s rulings since your judge will have fewer matters on their plate than the average judge in a family court. This is particularly important in cases involving high financial stakes.
Another benefit of opting for a private judge is that you are able to choose the judge. With traditional litigation, you are assigned a judge at random. You also have some control over the setting when you and your spouse hire a private judge to preside over your divorce case. The matter does not need to proceed in a courtroom; you can have a trial in your case virtually or in a different setting that is convenient for everyone.
Finally, private judging also provides some degree of privacy that is not available in public family courts. Courtrooms are public places, and with traditional litigation, many cases are called for status or routine matters each day. If you hire a private judge, you do not have to have your case called up in public courtrooms on a routine basis—instead, any routine matters or substantive hearings are handled privately.
How Does Private Judging Differ from Arbitration?
Private judging differs from arbitration in many ways. With private judging, you are essentially choosing a judge to preside over your case, allowing you to bypass the crowded family court system and guarantee a judge of your own choosing to issue the rulings in your case.
The process involved in private judging is similar to traditional litigation—it includes the gathering of evidence and allows for a full trial to take place with both parties having the opportunity to present witness testimony and evidence. With arbitration, the process is more collaborative and less formal.
Private judging, while offering some flexibility in terms of the location of hearings and trials, generally has a predetermined set of rules—meaning that a legal professional hired as a private judge must still follow the rules of evidence, civil procedure, and the California Family Code. When you proceed to trial before a private judge, although their rulings are binding on the parties, you still preserve the right to appeal any rulings you disagree with.
However, it is important to keep in mind that if you and your spouse choose to resolve your disputed issues through arbitration, unless the parties specifically agree in the Arbitration Agreement to preserve the right to appeal the arbitration award, you do not automatically preserve your right to appeal any binding rulings as you would in a traditional family law court process or in a private judging setting . Before moving forward with any approach to resolving a legal dispute, it is crucial to understand the impact any final decisions or rulings will have on your options going forward.
As a private judge, Neil Forester brings both professionalism and legal acumen to the proceedings, drawing upon his 198 years of experience as a litigator in the California family courts. His experience and familiarity with the California Family Code, as well as the rules of evidence and civil procedure, continue to benefit him as he takes on more cases as a private judge.
What Qualifications Does Neil Possess as a Private Judge?
Attorney Neil Forester possesses several qualifications that elevate him to the top category of private judges who are available to parties in California. Neil is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which is an elected professional membership association inclusive of the most trusted Family Law leaders in the country who have demonstrated expertise and professionalism in this area of law.
He is also a Certified Family Law Specialist, earning this designation through the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization. To become a Certified Family Law Specialist, Neil was required to successfully meet several requirements, including the demonstration of broad and comprehensive experience in the area of family law based on the completion of a variety of different matters in this area of specialty as well as obtain favorable evaluations from judges and other attorneys familiar with his work in the area of family law.
Neil has earned these elite designations through his dedication of many years to the practice of family law, while maintaining the highest level of professionalism in this field and among his peers.
As a litigator in the area of family law for over 198 years, Neil has gained valuable experience in nearly every aspect of this practice. His vast experience allows him to apply his expertise and insider perspective to all aspects of his current practice, including private judging.
What Is Private Judging?
Choosing to hire a private judge to preside over your family law case is often an effective way to expedite the resolution of your case while also keeping the issues involved in your case confidential. A private judge is a legal professional—often an attorney with extensive litigation experience or a retired judge—who is hired to preside over your case, and who is appointed by the Superior Court of the county in which the case is being handled.
Proceedings held in front of a private judge are considered formal judicial proceedings, even if the setting is less formal. Hearings before a private judge can take place virtually if the parties wish, or they can also occur in a neutral setting outside of a courtroom if everyone involved is in agreement.
While the parties have more control over certain aspects of the process than they would with traditional litigation in family courtrooms, in general, the formal rules of evidence and civil procedure still apply. Although with a private judge, you and your spouse have the advantage of choosing the judge, that judge still must interpret and apply the rules of evidence and civil procedure in accordance with California law, as any other judge would.
Neil Forester – Private Judge
Private judging offers couples contemplating divorce litigation a unique approach. This method is helpful for couples who cannot come to an agreement regarding disputed issues in their divorce—couples who may seem destined for lengthy litigation. Hiring a private judge is a highly effective way to make the litigation process move forward more efficiently, and it allows a divorcing couple to have a judge issue binding rulings on disputed matters in their case without requiring them to litigate the issues in a public family courtroom.
With a more efficient process than traditional litigation can offer, private judging is an attractive option for many divorcing couples to consider before filing for divorce in family court. Ultimately, opting for a private judge over traditional litigation can save time and money while also protecting your privacy by keeping your case out of the public courtroom.
If you are interested in pursuing private judging services, please do not hesitate to reach out to Neil Forester today. Forester Family Law PC. is a virtual law firm with a focus on helping clients all over the state of California resolve their legal disputes outside of the courtroom.
While his practice emphasizes utilizing mediation and arbitration for dispute resolution whenever possible as a more efficient alternative to lawsuits and civil courtrooms, private judging is another method offered by Neil Forester for bringing about a final resolution to family law-related disputes. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.
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Experience & Insight
Over 18+ years of court appearances, settlement conferences, and private negotiations, NEIL has seen all types of family law cases, from simple and straightforward to complex and contentious. The following list of real-world experience highlights his streetwise and skill in the field. NEIL is available to consult on trial strategy and provide partial representation for litigants. In nearly all situations, he promotes settlement and non-adversarial solutions over contested divorce.
Represented owner of separate property business involving the sale of company shares with complex tracing issues and intricate analysis of the Pereira/Van Camp factors in determining the lack of a community property interest in the proceeds from the sale.
Represented one of four siblings who own a large national business in litigation involving characterization of premarital stocks in the company, tracing of funds from periodic distributions from the separate property business, and analysis of Pereira/Van Camp in determining separate property character of the underlying stock shares.
Represented partner in a law firm involving valuation of his practice, determination of the Marital Standard of Living in order to protect increased earnings post separation from spouse’s demand for increased spousal support, and analysis of retroactive in-kind payments to spouse’s separate obligations to create reimbursement claim for overpayment of support.
Represented law firm partner at Southern California Labor & Employment firm with significant business valuation and goodwill issues, resulting in full settlement through negotiation.
Represented retired business owner in a long term marriage involving highly complex separate property tracing issues, resulting in confirmation to the client of substantial commingled assets as separate property.
Represented single mother in a high-conflict custody dispute with an absentee father seeking shared physical custody, resulting in the client receiving sole legal custody and visitation to father only upon the client’s agreement.
Consulted with a client working with the opposing party (an attorney) through mediation to ensure the client understood the legal ramifications of the mediated issues, resulting in a successful resolution of the matter through mediation and avoiding the need to litigate the case.
Represented a high-profile public figure in a post-judgment spousal support modification case involving the interpretation and application of complex support modification and termination rules.
Represented two separate high-profile musicians in marital dissolution cases involving multi-million dollar intellectual property rights and property division issues.
Represented partner of Real Estate law firm in a marital dissolution case involving complex business valuation of law practice, domestic violence issues, and breach of fiduciary duty issues, resulting in highly favorable judgment after trial.
Represented law firm partner with a tax litigation practice in marital dissolution case involving significant separate property reimbursement issues, spousal support, and allocation of separate property debt issues.
Represented Peruvian father in child abduction matter under the Hague Convention resulting in the return of the child to the father after a single contested hearing.
Represented former member of the armed services in marital dissolution case involving contested child custody disputes, domestic violence, and support issues, resulting in an extremely favorable judgment for the client after contested trial.
Represented cardiologist in marital dissolution matter involving issues related to imputing income to underemployed spouse, valuation of a medical practice, and separate property reimbursement issues.
Represented commercial real property business owner in a marital dissolution case after 30 years of marriage, with issues involving three decades of tracing commingled separate property inheritance funds and property valuation, resulting in a favorable settlement for the client.
Represented mother of two children against Turkish father who illegally fled with the children out of the country and hid the children from her, resulting in the return of the children to her and virtual termination of father’s visitation rights.
Pro bono representation of woman seeking domestic violence restraining order against same sex cohabitant, resulting in full settlement of case.
Pro bono representation of abused Hmong woman seeking domestic violence restraining orders against violent husband who was seeking to have her deported, resulting in successful resolution of all issues.
Has successfully argued cases and motions before the Superior Courts of Sacramento, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Napa, Placer, Yolo, San Francisco, Marin, Tehama, Siskiyou, Solano, Stanislaus, Lassen, Lake, Yuba, and Nevada Counties.