You Can use a Private Judge in Divorce Matters in Texas

Using a private judge is no longer reserved for celebrities and the ultra-wealthy. There are advantages and disadvantages to using a private judge in a divorce and the lawyers at the Ashmore Law Firm can explore the option with you to help you decide if your divorce would benefit from using a private judge.

People faced with divorce want to go through the process as quickly as possible, get the best results, and do so discreetly. To achieve these objectives, you need efficient access to the courts, you need a judicial officer who has the background to understand the nuances and complexities of your issues, and you want hearings to be held in private.

Unfortunately, the public court system is simply not equipped to meet these objectives.  The public court system is overloaded and backlogged.  This leaves people who need access to the courts with limited control over scheduling. Furthermore, some family court judges are appointed to that position with no family law background and no experience dealing with the unique and complicated issues raised in divorce cases, like difficult custody matters, complex property issues, or difficult business and finance issues.  And, of course, the ‘public’ court system is just that – public.  This means that all hearings are held in an open courtroom.

To help resolve these challenges, an emerging trend involves people opting for private judges. Texas law permits the use of private judges in family law matters if both parties agree. In addition to speed and efficiency, parties using a private judge can choose the presiding official rather than relying on an arbitrary assignment of your matter by the equivalent of a lottery system.  This flexibility allows you to select a judge who is well-versed in the field, who can be available to your lawyer at a mutually convenient time and hold meetings and hearings in the privacy of the judge’s office.

In Texas, the differences between a regular judge and a private judge in the context of divorce proceedings revolve around how the case is handled and the level of privacy, speed, and control over the process. Here's a brief overview:

Regular Judge for Divorce in Dallas, Park Cities and Highland Park, TX

Public System:

Regular judges are part of the public court system, where divorce cases can experience delays due to many cases competing for the court's time. For instance, a couple filing for divorce might find their case scheduled months out due to the backlog of cases the court is handling.


Initially, the cost associated with a regular judge may seem lower, but as the case extends over months or even years, attorney fees and court costs can accumulate significantly. A simple divorce could end up costing thousands of dollars more than anticipated because of these delays.


Since proceedings under a regular judge are public, sensitive information discussed during the divorce could become accessible to anyone who searches the public records. This exposure can be distressing for parties concerned about their personal matters becoming public knowledge.


Regular judges make decisions within the framework of state laws, but they also allow for mediation and negotiations, which can help parties reach a mutual agreement. However, if parties can't agree, the judge's decision will be final, potentially leaving one or both parties dissatisfied with the outcome.

Private Judge for Divorce in Dallas, Park Cities and Highland Park, TX

Private System:

Private judges offer an alternative, operating outside the traditional court system and often providing a more intimate and focused setting for resolving divorce proceedings. This could be likened to having a dedicated arbitrator who has the legal authority to make binding decisions on your case.

Selecting a Judge:

Parties can choose a judge who has the necessary background to understand and rule on the issues involved.


While hiring a private judge requires upfront payment, which can be substantial, the expedited process can lead to savings on long-term legal fees. For example, a complex divorce case that might take years in the public system could be resolved in months with a private judge, significantly reducing the overall cost.


The confidentiality afforded by a private judge is particularly beneficial for high-profile individuals or those who wish to keep the details of their divorce out of the public eye. All discussions, filings, and outcomes can be kept strictly between the parties involved and their legal teams.


The ability to schedule hearings and make decisions swiftly is a significant advantage of using a private judge. Parties have the luxury of scheduling sessions around their own calendars rather than being at the mercy of the public court schedule, leading to a faster resolution. Private trials also offer a smoother process without the interruptions and delays often associated with the public court system, as the private judge can easily accommodate the schedules of all involved parties and assign as much time to your matter as necessary.

Time Savings:

Private trials can be concluded faster than waiting for district court proceedings, typically within a month. This expeditious resolution is crucial for family law issues, enabling individuals to move forward with their lives.


Private judges follow the same legal guidelines as regular judges but can offer more personalized attention to the nuances of a case. This tailored approach can be especially beneficial in complex cases where the standard solutions provided by the public court system may not be ideal.

NOTE: Judgments issued by the private judge carry the same weight as those in public court trials.

In either scenario choosing a public judge or private judge for your divorce proceedings, it's crucial to have legal representation that understands your goals and can navigate the chosen path effectively. 

Key considerations for choosing a public or private judge in divorce in Dallas or Highland Park, Texas

Cost vs. Speed:

For those who prioritize a quick resolution and have the financial means, a private judge could be the best option. This choice is particularly appealing to those who wish to move on with their lives swiftly without the prolonged stress of divorce proceedings.

Complexity of the Case:

Complex divorces involving intricate financial arrangements, business interests, or international aspects might benefit from the specialized attention a private judge can provide, ensuring that all facets of the case are thoroughly understood and fairly adjudicated.

Privacy Concerns:

Individuals who value their privacy above all else might find the confidentiality of proceedings with a private judge to be invaluable. This setup ensures that the details of their divorce remain a private matter, away from the prying eyes of the public.

It's essential to weigh the decision between a private or public trial for divorce in Texas

While there are numerous benefits to private trials, the associated costs can be a deterrent for some. Opting for a private judge may lead to substantial expenses, unlike the public court system. Additionally, the appeals process in private trials is more complex compared to the fixed guidelines in the public court system. To determine if a private judge aligns with your circumstances. Call and speak to us today about your specific situation so we can give you the information you need to make the most informed and best decision for your unique circumstances.

Gary Ashmore
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Helping Dallas & Highland Park, Texas area families with Family Law, Probate & Estate Planning needs.