Is a Special Master the Answer? Probably Not.
Nobody likes conflict. Conflict is bad. Conflict in divorce is even worse. Conflict in divorce involving children? Worst of all.
And so parents who find themselves embroiled in a high conflict divorce over their children are often desperate for relief. Anything that may offer the mere hint of relief tempts those who are desperate for relief.
Do you get the feeling I’m setting you up for disappointment? I am, but it’ll save you a lot of hassle and money, so read on. It’s worth it.
One suggestion for reducing high conflict over child custody and children generally is a “special master.”
Wow. Merely reading or speaking the name itself provides relief. Special Master. Now there’s a title that had to have been created by someone with a successful background in marketing.
Special because you and your children deserve special treatment. Special, like a miracle.
A master to take control and establish order. A sage with the wisdom to resolve what lesser beings could not.
Now here is a more clinical definition of special master using terminology that you’ll often hear thrown around if and when the appointment of a special master is being considered or proposed:
“A special master . . . specializes in helping parents resolve their disputes about what is best for the kids.”
(emphasis added) https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/what-is-a-special-master-can-they-help-in-a-divorce-or-paternity-action
“A Special Master’s job is to resolve problems quickly by mediation where appropriate or by making decisions for the family where the parents cannot come to a decision, using quasi-judicial authority stipulated to by the parents in advance.”   https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/using-special-masters-to-resolve-post-divorce-conflicts
“A Special Master’s role can be considered that of a “traffic cop” who has the authority to quickly intervene when the situation warrants immediate action.”  https://utahparentservices.com/special.html
‘Sounds wonderful, right? Almost too good to be true.
Strip away all of the descriptions that are used to lure parents into wanting a special master, and it comes down to this: special masters are how courts punt responsibility for resolving child custody disputes to someone else.
No, that’s not completely accurate.
Special masters are how courts punt responsibility for resolving child custody disputes to someone else . . . and to make the parents pay for the special master services over the course of months, even years.
No, that’s not completely accurate either.
Special masters are how courts punt responsibility for resolving child custody disputes to someone else . . . and to make the parents pay for the special master services over the course of months, even years. . . without things getting much, if any better.
When you think about it for a little while, the reason for the existence of special masters should not come as any surprise. It’s the same reason why weight loss pills and online universities appeal to us and always will: the quick fix, something for nothing.
Now of course there is virtually nothing that is a pure application of the something for nothing principle. That’s what makes the scam so successful. Losing weight is hard. You need to eat less food. You have to exercise. But for just $19.95, you can sit around and eat all you want, but still lose weight by taking a pill.
Special masters care about getting you to believe that in exchange for your money they will reduce or eliminate conflict. Special masters make a buck by getting you to believe you can pass the buck. Rather than having to deal with your ex, the special master will intervene and “deal with it” instead.
Surely you see how naïve such an idea is.
Rarely, if ever, can you buy your way out of inter-parental conflict.
And if you can, the price is probably higher than you can afford or are willing to pay, and in any case the last person who can deliver is a special master.
High conflict doesn’t exist or persist because of the lack of a special master. Special masters themselves will tell you, in private and when their guard is down, that their greatest value lies in getting parents to hope and believe change will come. Change, however, does not come, or if it does, takes the form of the jaded special master abandoning faith in all that collaboration and empathy jazz for ruling with an iron fist. And if all you need is a club to keep your ex in line, you don’t need to pay a special master for that. Special masters know this, but they can’t admit it without putting themselves out of business.
Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. If you can find parents who have utilized the services of a special master and who 1) were both pleased with the special master services; and 2) felt the special master was worth the fees, please give me a call. I won’t be waiting by the phone.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I’m sorry I don’t have a truly effective alternative to offer you, but I can spare you from making a bad choice. I can’t sit by and let you throw good money after bad by asking for a special master to be appointed.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277