lawyer with books open in front of them on desk

What Is So Special About a Special Master?

Historically, the terms “Special Master” and “Referee” have been used interchangeably to connote a nonjudicial officer being appointed to conduct a fact-finding service for the benefit of the Court and litigants. The statutory authority for reference to a Special Master is set forth in CCP §638 & §639.

A voluntary reference to a Special Master is authorized by CCP §638, which provides that the Court may order a reference either upon the agreement of the parties filed with the clerk of the Court or entered in the minutes of the Court.

Alternatively, an involuntary reference pursuant to CCP §639 is made by the Court with respect to certain limited matters and is made without the consent of the parties.

Because there is a constitutional prohibition against a Court delegating judicial authority to a nonjudicial officer, both voluntary and involuntary references must be made very carefully. References must be made in writing, approved by the Court, and clearly specify the nature of the reference and the specific issues that are subject to the reference.

There are many substantive issues that arise in family cases that lend themselves to a reference:

  • determination of the date of separation of the parties;
  • choosing an alternative valuation date to value a closely held business;
  • making a finding of fact with regard to the Family Code §4320 spousal support factors;
  • eliciting accounting information regarding tracing and reimbursement issues;
  • creating a marital balance sheet to calculate an equalizing payment;
  • and many more such issues.

So, if counsel and the trial court recognize that the appointment of a Special Master will expedite the resolution of an issue or the entire case, why choose Sullivan Law & Associates to act in that role? Attorney David E. Wald has transitioned to an “of counsel” role at the firm to specifically and solely act as mediator, Special Master, and private hearing officer. Mr. Wald has in excess of 48 years of experience litigating all aspects of family law matters. He has successfully concluded in excess of 50 Special Master references, all involving complex family law issues.

Forms ADR109;110;111