Updates from the Family Law Committee Chair

May 22 2019 | Committees

NOBA Welcomes Marc Winsberg to his First Year as Family Law Committee Chair!

          I plan to use my first year as Chairman of the Family Law Committee to help educate lawyers on alternative dispute resolution options in divorce cases. In no area more than divorce is it crucial for attorneys to explore ways to cut down the costs and the acrimony of litigation. To that end, we have scheduled a one hour lunch seminar for June 19, 2019 on collaborative law. The presenter will be Lacy Smith, who is extremely knowledgeable about the collaborative law process.

            Later in the year, I hope to plan a seminar regarding the use of special masters and other forms of dispute resolution. The employment of special masters has been on the rise, especially in divorce cases that involve complicated financial issues and especially in Orleans Parish, where it can be difficult for the courts to devote several days to trying complicated property partitions and support issues.

            All family lawyers should be keenly aware of the special master option. Although the parties must pay the special master (the fees are usually split or paid from community property), the end result can be much cheaper than litigating the matter through the court system. Court dates are often months apart, causing lawyers and experts to have to order transcripts from previous hearings, get up to speed for the same issue more than once, etc. Moreover, special masters often can provide hearing dates that are much quicker and closer together than the court system. Often special master hearings can get scheduled within a couple of months of the appointment.

            Another benefit is that special masters have more freedom than judges to use creative ways to help the parties reach a settlement. Special master proceedings often morph into mediation type meetings, as long as all parties consent to the special master taking on that role.

            The special master statute is codified at La. R.S. 13:4165. A few important points that a practitioner should know are:

  • All parties must agree to the appointment of a special master. The court cannot order it absent such agreement; however, absent an agreement, the court has the option of appointing its own expert, who can act similarly to a special master.
  • Special masters transmit recommendations to the judge, and the parties have ten days to object and request a hearing with the district court.

            In any divorce case consisting of financial issues that will take more than two days to try, practitioners should seriously explore this option.

 

Written by: Marc Winsberg, Winsberg & Arnold, LLC, Family Law Committee Chair



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