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Family Law

Newport Beach Private Judge

Discreet Resolutions to Family Law and Divorce Matters In Orange County, CA

When a divorcing couple cannot come to agreeable divorce terms, a hearing officer can offer a quicker and more confidential resolution than taking the matter through the public court system. At Sullivan Law & Associates, our hearing officer enables couples to determine any or all elements of their divorce. The voters in California overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1-a in 1966 led to the use of hearing officers, also referred to as temporary judges.

The resulting state constitutional amendment states, “On stipulation of the parties litigant the court may order a cause to be tried by a temporary judge who is a member of the State Bar, sworn and empowered to act until final determination of the cause.” The popularity of using hearing officers has increased ever since.

Advantages of an Orange County Hearing Officer

A hearing officer is often a lawyer with deep knowledge of the areas in which they preside. Like public court judges, they take an oath of office and certify that they will follow the Judicial Code of Ethics. Hearing officers are used in family law, contract, and insurance disputes.

California law allows for considerable flexibility in how parties choose to utilize a neutral authority. If a couple agrees on all aspects of the divorce except one, the hearing officer can render a decision on the outstanding matter based on the evidence presented.

Convenience is an important benefit of a hearing officer. The parties’ lawyers can agree upon the way the hearing will be conducted to accommodate their own schedules and the availability of clients and witnesses. They can agree to a virtual hearing as well as telephonic testimony from teachers, and accountants.

Rules of evidence, the level of detail required in briefs, and other operating procedures can be modified to best suit the specific case. A hearing officer can determine any and all elements in a divorce such as child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support/alimony, business valuation, and asset/debt division. Other advantages of a hearing officer include the following:

  • In public court, the litigating parties cannot choose which judge will hear the case. The two sides select the neutral authority they wish to use.
  • The hearing officer is a specialist in the specific area of the law over which they preside.
  • Hearing officers have a smaller caseload enabling divorces to move forward on a faster timetable than public court. The smaller caseload also affords the officers more time to fully consider the evidence and testimony before rendering a decision.
  • Hearing times are mutually agreed upon so litigants can minimize the disruption to their work schedule and other obligations.
  • A proceeding with a hearing officer is more informal and often less adversarial than a conventional court.
  • The proceedings before the hearing officer are behind closed doors. California law does, however, require divorce files to be public.

We can help determine whether a hearing officer would be appropriate in your divorce case. Schedule a consultation by calling (949) 590-8100.

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Hearing Officer vs. Arbitration & Mediation

Every divorce is different so there is no one-fits-all solution. Fortunately, there are multiple solutions to ironing out disputes when a marriage ends. The method best suited for a case depends on numerous factors.

A mediator remains a neutral third party who guides both sides to a compromised solution. The focus is on mutual agreement. Both sides might meet together or separately with the mediator. The parties can sign a draft agreement or determine more time is required to reach an understanding. The mediator can help both sides reach an answer to one or more issues in dispute.

An arbitrator is similar to a hearing officer, but they are not appointed or overseen by the court system. This distinction means that documents presented in arbitration are generally not a public record as they are with matters before a hearing officer.

However, a decision of binding arbitration is more difficult to appeal. Decisions by a hearing officer can be taken to the Courts of Appeal. In non-binding arbitration, either party can reject the decision and take the matter to court or another form of alternative dispute resolution.

Efficient Resolution for Orange County Family Law Matters

Our objective at Sullivan Law & Associates is to help you reach closure and move forward. Divorce and other family law concerns are among the most difficult and emotional challenges anyone faces. We offer compassionate and comprehensive legal counsel so you can begin your next chapter on more solid ground. Find out whether a hearing officer is appropriate for you. Call (949) 590-8100 to schedule a consultation.

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