What Is a Special Master in Family Law

What Is a Special Master in Family Law?

Family law cases can be complex and emotionally charged, often involving disputes over child custody, visitation rights, spousal support, and property division. In such cases, the court may appoint a special master to assist in resolving these issues. A special master is an independent third party appointed by the court to assist in managing and resolving disputes in family law matters. They have specialized knowledge in family law and can provide valuable assistance to the court and the parties involved in the case.

The primary role of a special master is to help facilitate communication and negotiation between the parties. They act as a neutral mediator, working to find common ground and help the parties reach a resolution that is fair and in the best interests of all involved, especially the children. Special masters can be particularly helpful in high-conflict cases where emotions run high and communication breaks down between the parties.

Special masters can be appointed in various family law cases, including divorce, child custody disputes, and modifications of existing court orders. They can assist in various aspects of the case, such as conducting investigations, evaluating evidence, making recommendations to the court, and assisting with the implementation of court orders. They may also help the parties develop parenting plans and visitation schedules that work for both parents and the children.


Q: How is a special master appointed?
A: The appointment of a special master is at the discretion of the court. The court may appoint a special master on its own initiative or upon the request of one or both parties. The court will consider various factors, such as the complexity of the case and the potential benefits of having a neutral third party involved in the resolution process.

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Q: What qualifications does a special master have?
A: Special masters are typically attorneys who have extensive experience and knowledge in family law. They may also have additional training in mediation, conflict resolution, child development, and other relevant areas. The court will consider the qualifications and expertise of the potential special master before making an appointment.

Q: How does a special master help in resolving disputes?
A: Special masters use various techniques to help parties resolve their disputes. They may meet with each party individually to understand their concerns and interests. They may also facilitate negotiation sessions where the parties can discuss their issues in a controlled and respectful environment. Special masters can provide legal information, clarify misunderstandings, and offer creative solutions to help the parties reach an agreement.

Q: Are the decisions of a special master binding?
A: The decisions and recommendations of a special master are not binding on the parties. However, they carry significant weight with the court as they are based on the special master’s expertise and careful consideration of the case. The court will often give great deference to the recommendations of a special master, especially if both parties have had an opportunity to present their positions and be heard.

Q: How long does a special master’s involvement typically last?
A: The length of a special master’s involvement can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the progress made in resolving the disputes. In some cases, a special master’s involvement may be limited to a couple of meetings or a short period of time. In more complex cases, their involvement may last several months or even longer. The goal is to ensure that the parties have sufficient time and support to reach a fair and lasting resolution.

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In conclusion, a special master in family law is an impartial third party appointed by the court to assist in resolving disputes in complex family law cases. They bring specialized knowledge and expertise to the table and help the parties navigate the emotionally charged issues involved. By facilitating communication, providing guidance, and offering creative solutions, special masters play a crucial role in helping families find resolutions that are fair and in the best interests of all involved.