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Alternatives to Traditional Divorce Trials in Texas: Arbitration, Private Judges, and Collaborative Law

private judge

When facing a divorce, many couples assume that their only option, when agreement seems difficult to impossible, is to engage in a lengthy and often contentious court trial. However, there are several alternatives available that can help resolve disputes more efficiently, cost-effectively, and with less emotional strain on all parties involved.

In this blog post, we will discuss three such alternatives: arbitration, using a private judge, and collaborative law.


Arbitration is a process in which a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator, hears the arguments and evidence presented by both sides and makes a binding decision. The advantages of arbitration include:

1. Faster resolution compared to traditional court proceedings

2. More flexibility in scheduling hearings

3. Increased privacy, as arbitration is not a matter of public record

4. The ability to choose an arbitrator with specialized knowledge in family law

However, arbitration also has some drawbacks:

1. Limited ability to appeal the arbitrator's decision

2. Potential for higher upfront costs compared to court trials since you will be paying the decision maker rather than using a Judge at no cost.

Couples may choose arbitration if they prioritize a quicker resolution and more control over the process.

If Arbitration seems to be the option for you, it is important to enlist the aid of a Texas Family Lawyer not only in preparing for, and appearing with you at, the arbitration, but also in working with you on the written arbitration agreement. The arbitration agreement will set up all the rules for the arbitration and is extremely important in making sure your arbitration result is equitable and enforceable.

Private Judges

Using a private judge, often colloquially referred to as a "rent-a-judge," involves hiring a retired or former judge to oversee the divorce proceedings. The benefits of this approach include:

1. Faster resolution than traditional court trials

2. More flexibility in scheduling hearings

3. Increased privacy, as the proceedings are not held in a public courtroom

4. The opportunity to work with an experienced family law judge of the parties’ choosing rather than being randomly assigned to a judge, who may have little to no interest in and/or knowledge of Texas family law.

Disadvantages of using a private judge include:

1. Higher costs compared to traditional court trials as, like in arbitrations, the parties will be required to pay the decision maker

2. Potential difficulty in enforcing orders, as they may need to be filed with the court

Couples may opt for a private judge if they want the expertise of an experienced family law judge and a more efficient process. And, as mentioned above, when privacy is important as in celebrity divorces, high-net worth divorces, and when there might be facts or allegations that one or both parties don’t want aired in an open and public Court proceeding.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is a process in which both parties commit to resolving their divorce without going to court. Each party hires a collaborative law attorney, and all parties work together to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The advantages of collaborative law include:

1. A more amicable and less adversarial process

2. Increased control over the outcome

3. Potentially lower costs compared to traditional court trials

4. Maintaining privacy, as the negotiations are kept confidential

Drawbacks of collaborative law include:

1. Requires a high level of cooperation and willingness to compromise from both parties

2. If the process fails, both attorneys must withdraw, and the parties must start over with new representation

Couples may choose collaborative law if they prioritize maintaining a cordial relationship post-divorce and want more control over the outcome.

In conclusion, while traditional court trials remain an option for divorce proceedings, alternatives such as arbitration, using a private judge, and collaborative law offer several benefits. These alternatives can provide faster resolutions, increased privacy, and more control over the process. However, each option also has its drawbacks, and the best choice will depend on the unique circumstances and priorities of each couple.

At Coker, Robb & Cannon, our experienced family law attorneys, are committed to helping our clients understand their options and make informed decisions that best serve their interests. Contact our offices now to find out more about your options in pursuing a resolution of your divorce or other family law matter.

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