How wealthy couples divorce — and whether you should consider it too.
Brangelina like it quick.
At least, when it comes to their divorce. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have reportedly asked retired judge John Ouderkirk, who officiated at their wedding, to oversee the divorce. It’s a move that could mean their divorce is finalized as soon as March: Hiring a private judge — typically a retired attorney or judge who oversees a civil case — means they don’t have the deal with the famously backlogged California courts. All parties must agree on a private judge — which means that both Jolie and Pitt gave Ouderkirk the go ahead.
His cost: $450 an hour, according to Alternative Resolution Centers, a legal services provider Ouderkirk works with. That’s cheap by LA standards, where private judges often charge anywhere from $500 or $700 an hour. (Alternative Resolution Centers declined to comment on Ouderkirk’s professional relationship with Pitt and Jolie.)
Of course, Pitt and Jolie will also have to pay their divorce lawyers. Top divorce lawyers charge fees of about $1,000 an hour, so 60 minutes in family court could run Pitt and Jolie upwards of $1,225 each. (The firm of Jolie’s divorce attorney, Laura Wasser, declined comment on her fees; the firm of Pitt’s representative, Lance Spiegel, didn’t have information immediately available.)
The ex-lovers likely chose the private judge route as it offers more privacy. While all divorce hearings are technically public, private judges typically hold sessions in offices that aren’t easily accessible to reporters. California also requires that strict criteria be met before court documents can be sealed as “the press and public have a right to know,” says Anita Rae Shapiro, a private judge who sat on the LA County Superior Court. However, private judges aren’t required to file their judgments publicly if both sides comply with terms. (When Pitt divorced Jennifer Aniston in 2005, they also used a private judge.)
The rub: “Private judges can’t order that an agreement be enforced” by the authorities, “so if you want to take action, you have to go back to the court system,” says Shapiro. Still, unless Pitt and Jolie end up fighting over alimony and child custody, their divorce agreement could never see the light of day.
Non bold-faced names could still have reason to hire a private judge. This route can end your marriage quickly, especially if there’s a backlog in their local courts, and sometimes save you money. Private judges, which typically run $300 to $700 an hour, are often available for full day hearings that start punctually. When you use a regular judge, you could wind up compensating your lawyer for hanging out at the courthouse if a previous session runs late. This route is also good for someone who doesn’t want the public to have access to intimate details of their marriage, especially if there’s a fear of identity theft or being extorted by someone who chances across their divorce papers, says Florida lawyer Jorge Cestero.
This story was originally published on MarketWatch.
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