Private Judging and Mediation

Private Judging and Mediation is a clear alternative to the Superior Court process. Both options put you in control of the resolution process without the costly delays and crowded Court dockets. Too often, family law bench officers are inexperienced and have little or no knowledge of this complex area of law. You benefit from having the experience and wisdom of a family law specialist who has been in the trenches at trial and adept in mediation to move your case forward to effective and efficient resolution.


Steve Ruben has served for more than ten years as a Senior Family Law Settlement Master and Judge Pro Tem in the Bay Area Family Law Courts. He brings his experience, wisdom and creativity in mediation and private judging of family cases including child custody, child and spousal support, complex financial cases and premarital agreements. Steve emphasizes the use of mediation and private judging as a readily accessible and cost effective forum for settling marital disputes generally with less cost to his clients, reducing friction and resulting in less acrimony.

Private Judging also provides personal judicial access and resources to resolve complex matters. Parties in a family law matter may request, retain or choose Steve as a private Judge to make binding, neutral, fair decisions regarding all or some of the issues in their case. The decision made by private settlement Judges have the same force and effect as that of a superior court Judge.

The parties may also select Steve to conduct a private settlement conference in an effort to avoid costs and the many uncertainties of a trial. Of course, Private Judging is not for everyone.

In the case of a simple, uncontested divorce, enlisting the assistance of Steve as a private Judge is not cost effective. In such an example, couples simply fill out the paperwork, turn it into the court and the divorce is granted in practically six months. Assistance in completing the forms required by the superior court may be received at the court's family court self-help center or through the lower-cost retention of an independent paralegal.

Advantages of Private Judging and Mediation

The hearing, settlement conference, or trial before a private judge can be set at the convenience of the parties and their attorneys. Often this proves to be a financial benefit to both parties, especially considering the time it takes attorneys to prepare for superior court appearances only to have them continued to a later date requiring the attorneys to prepare a second time at the parties' expense.

Private Judging can also be utilized for short hearings, discovery matters or emergency orders quickly and informally which saves a tremendous amount of time and money. Many of these matters may be conducted by telephonic appearance with Steve Ruben.

Is Your Case Right for Private Judging or Mediation?

Cases that are best suited for Private Judging and Mediation are those involving:

  1. Both parties are interested in a cost-efficient resolution
  2. Parties desire more control over their issue than is allowed in the Superior Court Process to structure and schedule hearings on immediate matters regarding child custody, spousal and child support
  3. Parties and their respective attorneys desire the convenience of scheduling their (set) dates for your private Judging or mediation
  4. Parties are interested in settlement
  5. Parties desire a prompt hearing or settlement conference

Variations and Individual Circumstances

Private judging and mediation can be tailored to fit the specific needs of the parties based on their individual circumstances. For example:

  1. The ability to schedule settlement conferences before a highly skilled family law attorney, which may save the parties thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees
  2. The parties determine how formal or informal the Judging will be
  3. The parties determine whether the decisions made by the Private Judge will be binding, which means the decision is final with no right to appeal
  4. The convenience of the parties to set the date and time
  5. The parties determine what the scope of discovery will be for each party

Where Do Hearings or Trials Take Place?

Most hearings are scheduled in our office located at 625 Market Street, Penthouse in San Francisco. When it is convenient, we may hold the trial or hearing at one of the representing attorneys' offices. Also, we may utilize offices of another law firm not representing either party or an alternative setting that is mutually acceptable to all parties involved.

How is Private Judging Different from Mediation?

In mediation, the parties work with a neutral and un-biased mediator in a confidential setting in an effort to resolve your issues and differences and finalize a result that is mutually acceptable to both parties involved. In mediation the parties are free to work with the neutral mediator and craft unique solutions to legal problems, whether the Superior Court Judge would allow the ruling or not.

In the alternative, as private judge, Steve Ruben works with both parties to settle your case to the best of his ability. If the parties cannot come to a mutual agreement, Steve will make an informed decision based on the law and the facts of each respective case.

Is the Private Judge's Order Binding?

Yes. Private Judging is not a preliminary finding nor is it an informal opinion which the parties must confirm by returning to court. The private judge's ruling is just as binding and enforceable as a superior court judge's decision. That is why it is imperative that you find the correct private judge to hear your matter.

Why use Stephen B. Ruben for This Process?

Since 1997, Stephen B. Ruben has conducted over 30 settlement conferences and trial hearings for the Superior Court of San Francisco on a wide variety of legal issues including property, support and child custody matters. Steve works hard to find creative legal solutions to family law matters that best serve both parties and their unique situation based on the California Family Code and all applicable Judicial Decisions.

Steve's experience also includes specialty areas of Family Law such as: marital and non-marital dissolution; domestic partnership including dissolution of domestic partnership; co-habitation claims under Marvin v. Marvin; property division with particular emphasis on high asset dissolutions; spousal support with particular emphasis on high wage earners and high Marital standard of living; custody and visitation disputes with particular expertise regarding proposed move-aways in the United States and internationally. Steve also has extensive experience with Pre-marital and Post Marital agreements; and attorneys' fee disputes.


San Francisco
Address: 625 Market Street, Penthouse
City/State: San Francisco, Ca 94105
Phone: (415) 399-6830
Fax: (415) 391-0141

Ruben Law Firm provides compassionate family law and divorce attorney representation to clients in Northern California. Including San Francisco County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Sonoma County, Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, Napa County, Los Angeles County and Orange County.

Contact Info

  • 625 Market Street, Penthouse
  • San Francisco, CA 94105
  • Phone: (415) 399-6830
  • Fax: (415) 391-0140
  • E-Mail: