It is reported that Brad and Angelina have decided to use a private Judge to deal with their separation. 

This isn't just an American thing, separating couples can use private Judges over here too, instead of going to the Family Courts. They are called Family Arbitrators in the UK, and these Arbitrators are experienced lawyers and Judges who are specifically qualified.  

Family Arbitrators make decisions in a similar way to Family Judges, for example how finances should be divided upon divorce. 

The advantages to Arbitration are:- 

1. The separating couple and their lawyers can choose the Arbitrator they wish to use.  At Court, a couple will not know which Judge is going to deal with their matter, and could see a number of Judges along the way.  

2. Arbitration can be quicker. A couple can see the Arbitrator when they are ready, rather than waiting for the Court to have available dates, and it can be arranged at everyone's convenience.  This is particularly the case where multiple days are needed.  It is no secret that the Family Courts are stretched at the moment. 

3. An Arbitrator can be asked to decide on a discrete issue.  For example, if a couple has reached decisions at mediation, but are stuck on one particular point, an Arbitrator could be asked to make a decision on the issue, enabling the couple to avoid the full Court process. 

A disadvantage of course is the cost.  The couple will have the cost of the Arbitrator, as well as their own legal costs, which can be high enough already when things are contentious. 

Family Arbitration is a relatively new thing in the UK, and in my experience isn't used a huge amount. My prediction for the future is that it will be used more and more by people who can afford it. The Family Courts are busy, and Family Arbitration offers a good alternative with some good benefits. 

If you want more information about arbitration, the Resolution website is helpful, http://www.resolution.org.uk/arbitration/,  or give me a call to discuss things.