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Newport Beach Special Master

Reducing Conflicts in Orange County Divorces

Financial issues are among the most contentious aspects of divorce. California is a community property state. Generally, property owned prior to a marriage is separate property while property acquired during the marriage is marital property. The distinction might seem clear and simple, but often a special master is needed to categorize assets and debts as well as make other financial determinations.

What is a Special Master in Family Law?

A special master is a professional appointed by the court to make day-to-day decisions for divorcing families in high conflict. The special master may be a mental health professional, mediator, or family law lawyer. They specialize in helping parents resolve disputes about what is best for their kids.

Using a special master can help a divorce move forward without the delays of waiting for time on the court’s docket. When necessary, the special master’s comprehensive report is provided to the court.

At Sullivan Law & Associates, our special master can assist with the following financial disputes:

  • Determine income available for support
  • Assess the value of real estate
  • Analyze investments, insurance policies, and retirement plans
  • Inventory artwork, jewelry, and other valuables
  • Characterize marital and separate property
  • Evaluate business interests
  • Calculate support arrears

Learn about our special master services offered at Sullivan Law & Associates by scheduling a consultation.

Parties Can Agree to Use a Special Master

Parties to a divorce should consider using a special master in Orange County, especially when efforts through mediation and other avenues have failed. A special master is generally more cost-effective than litigating every issue that emerges.

Section 638 of the Code of Civil Procedure allows the parties to designate a special master (also called a referee) to hear and determine all issues in the proceeding and to report a statement of decision to the court.

Using a Stipulation and Order, the parties agree on the person they will use as a special master. The parties decide what issues the special master has the power to resolve. They also determine whether the referee’s recommendations are binding and define how long the special master will perform their job. The appointment must also be signed by the judge.

Judges Can Appoint a Special Master

Section 639 of the Code of Civil Procedure authorizes the court to appoint a referee. Dissecting complicated financial matters takes extensive time that most judges do not have on their calendars. The court can choose to appoint a special master over the objections of the divorcing couple. Grievances must first be brought to the special master. By appointing a referee, the court hopes the former couple makes a more concerted effort to solve their disagreements on their own.

The court can delegate authority to the special master to make decisions about the issue at hand. At other times, the special master reports their findings or makes recommendations to the court. After hearing arguments from the parties, the presiding judge either adopts or revises the recommendation.

The duties of a special master can include the following:

  • Hear and determine any of the issues in an action or proceeding and report a statement of decision
  • Verify facts necessary to enable the court to determine an action or proceeding
  • Hear and determine discovery motions and disputes relevant to discovery in the action and to report findings and make a recommendation

The special master meets with other experts as needed. Documents, account statements, evaluations, and other evidence are reviewed.

Special Master Offers Cost-Effective Resolution to Financial Disputes

Most court dockets are heavily scheduled, which means monetary disagreements can take months to be settled through the formal judicial process. A special master can help courts move cases forward instead of getting bogged down in scheduling delays. Referees control their schedule, leaving themselves nimble to address needs on short notice.

Our special master can help with determining income for child and spousal support, assessing business valuation, and more issues relevant in divorce cases. These findings lay the foundation for numerous aspects of any divorce.

The special master at Sullivan Law & Associates has tremendous experience in complex family law issues minimizing the need to go to court and reducing conflict. With the help of this professional, couples can more efficiently put their divorce behind them and move forward.

If you think a special master would be beneficial for your case, schedule a consultation by calling (949) 565-2793.

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