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What is a Domestic Relations Commissioner?

A Kentucky Domestic Relations Commissioner handles family law cases.  We no longer use them in Jefferson County, but other counties still have them.  They function much like a judge in that they hear evidence, listen to the attorneys and clients, have the power to set child support and perform other related duties.

One of the advantages to having this role in the court is to add some relief to already crowded dockets.  During a divorce proceeding, there are numerous motions, briefs, hearings and other activities that dominate the available time of each judge.  There are only so many calendar days available, regardless of the number of active divorce cases either on-going or which need to be added to the schedule.

The Domestic Relations Commissioner serves as a relief valve for both the judges and the litigants.  Once the divorce process has begun, people typically don’t want to drag it out for months and years.  This is especially true when it’s only due to judicial time constraints.

One of the ways Jefferson County Family Court has successfully addressed this situation is by requiring an initial attempt at mediation, before the case is actually presented to the judge.  Often, you can reach agreements on specific areas of the divorce, such as property division, child support, visitation, maintenance and other related areas.  It’s what I include as one of the advantages of mediation.

If the two parties can reach agreement on any or all of the necessary issues, the time required by the judge (and the control you turn over to the judge) is significantly reduced.  One of the benefits of reaching these agreements is that you’ll incur fewer attorney-related charges due to trial preparation, discovery and other activities.  Mediation can be a significant cost-savings.  In counties using a Domestic Relations Commissioner, there may also be an option of mediating prior to involving the Commissioner.