Special Magistrates (CSM)
Consensual Special Magistrates have been referred to as a “rent-a-judge.” This process is a hybrid form of arbitration. Most typically special magistrates are used in custody and high income/high value asset cases. Having a special magistrate keeps the matter out of the public eye which, for some individuals is important. CSM’s are also used if the parties both agree that it is not in their best interests to let a judge, who may or may not be familiar with the financial nuances and intricacies of the issues in their case, listen to their case in trial, a public forum, and render a decision. The parties may prefer to have an attorney who has experience with the issues of their case render a decision.
From Susan's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com.
Parties with substantial income and/or assets may also want to choose who will decide their case, a process not available to them if they use the court system.
Special magistrates are governed by special rules and laws. They are lawyers and they are paid an hourly rate to listen to the case being presented, deliberate a decision and render a decision.
The decisions of special magistrates are directly appealed to the Court of Appeals.