How a Private Judge Can Fast-Track Your California Divorce

While an added expense, a private judge allows divorcing parties to cut through a significant amount of the red tape typically associated with the standard court system. This is largely because a private judge has a smaller caseload and only needs to concern themselves with making sure the case is handled fairly and ethically. 

While a private judge still needs to follow rules and regulations that may slow down how quickly a judgment can be reached, they can usually help a case reach its final judgment much faster than the standard court system

What is a private judge?

A private judge is a legal professional, often one who once operated as a judge in the standard court system, that parties can hire to privately review their case and pass judgment.

While the mechanics of putting a case before a private judge are similar to putting a case through the standard legal system, it’s still a private process. Both parties must agree to have a private individual judge their case. In so doing, they skip the standard court process and bind themselves to that private judge’s decisions. 

A private judge has an ethical and legal duty to pass judgment without bias. Generally, hiring a private judge has the potential to significantly increase the speed at which a case is processed without negatively affecting the quality of the process. In some ways, a private judge may actually provide a superior experience to a traditional judge. 

The downside of using a private judge is that they can be a significant expense. They are skilled legal professionals and are priced as such.

Should I hire a private judge for my California divorce?

The average person probably won’t want to hire a private judge for their California divorce. Using a private judge has the potential to raise the cost of a divorce by thousands of dollars, although the specific cost will depend on the judge used and the amount of time one needs that judge’s services. 

That said, there are several situations where one might want to use such a judge for their divorce.

Public figures

Private judges are commonly used for the divorces of those in the public eye, such as celebrities. The use of a private judge, especially one with a good reputation regarding celebrity cases, can potentially prevent information from getting unnecessarily released to the public. The additional cost may be negligible, depending on the parties involved.

Significant assets

Couples with significant assets may wish to hire a private judge for a few different reasons. One of the most obvious is that parties who may have millions of dollars can afford the added cost of a private judge without it significantly impacting their finances. 

A private judge can also be beneficial due to the time and attention they can afford to place on a case, which isn’t necessarily possible for a standard judge to give. If divorcing parties have a significant, complex collection of assets they want to be fairly split, it might make sense to hire a judge who can dedicate all the necessary time to deliver a precise, fair judgment. 

Suggested: How Are Business Assets Divided in Divorce?

Strict timelines

Parties operating on tight timelines can also benefit from the use of a private judge. For example, divorcing parties may be dealing with a strict deadline. If they don’t resolve their case by a deadline, it could result in a significant financial or legal penalty. In a case like this, the cost of a private judge may represent a cheaper alternative.

How can a private judge fast-track my divorce?

Bypassing court backlogs

When trying to get a case seen by a traditional judge, you may face delays due to court backlogs. The reality of the standard legal process is that when the courts are especially busy, a case can take significantly longer to be seen. 

A private judge won’t generally have this same issue. Private judges tend to be much less busy than public judges, as they can choose which cases they take with much more discretion. And, if a particular private judge is busy, you could simply hire a different private judge.

Scheduling flexibility 

Because they tend to be less busy, private judges bring flexibility to the table when it comes to scheduling your case. This can be a major advantage when the parties involved are especially busy and have limited time to devote to the divorce process.

Devoting more time to your case

A private judge can dedicate more time to an individual case, processing it more efficiently than a judge in the public court system. This is a matter of practicality. A private judge is likely to have a much smaller caseload and different legal obligations than a standard judge. So, they can afford to dedicate more time to each case. 

More streamlined court process

When a private judge oversees a case, the process is often very similar to when a case is seen through the standard court system. However, the nature of using a private judge means that both parties have agreed to allow a private process to supersede the standard process. This typically means less red tape. 

If some element of the standard process doesn’t actively help make a trial more fair and ethical, a private court process may be able to cut it. This can shorten the time it takes for a case to receive a final judgment. 

How to find a private judge in California

Because of the expense and the importance of their role, a private judge should be selected with care. To find a private judge who can see a case in California, you can start by searching online. You will want to find a judge who has experience seeing cases similar to yours. Once you’ve identified a few options, research the judges more thoroughly, looking for any red flags as well as client testimonials. 

At this stage, you will want to contact the offices of these judges with any questions you may have. Find out how much the judge is likely to cost, which days they’re available to see your case, and any information you or your legal representation thinks is important. You may want to contact the judge with your ex to prevent any accusations you may have been attempting to privately manipulate the judge. 

If you and the other party disagree on the best judge to use, you will need to resolve that dispute before a judge can see your case. You can’t force the other party to use a private judge they don’t want to use. 

Hello Divorce private divorce judge

At Hello Divorce, we offer private divorce judge services for clients in California. We’ve structured this service to be affordable because one of our primary goals is to make divorce accessible to everyone who needs it. If you’d like to learn more about this service, we invite you to schedule a free 15-minute call with an account coordinator. 

Suggested: What Is a Private Judge, and What Do They Do?


Commission on Judicial Performance. California Courts.
The Private Judge: California Anomaly or Wave of the Future? International Academy of Family Lawyers.
Head of Content
Communication, Relationships, Personal Growth, Mental Health
As Hello Divorce's Head of Content, Katie is dedicated to breaking down the stress and mess of divorce into clear, helpful content that delivers hope rather than fear. Katie most often writes about the emotional toll of divorce, self-care and mindfulness, and effective communication. Katie has 20+ years of experience in content development and management, specializing in compelling consumer-facing content that helps people live better lives. She has a Master's in Media Studies from the University of Wisconsin. Katie lives in Texas with her husband and two adorable cats, and you can find her hiking and bird watching in her free time.