A Special Master is a court-appointed official with the authority to make rulings and interpretations of existing court orders within a carefully-defined scope on a particular case. Special Masters can only be appointed by stipulation. Special Masters are typically appointed in cases where there has been a history of ongoing litigation of a relatively minor, routine, or repetitive nature.
My approach emphasizes getting quick solutions without resorting to a legal action. I require all petitions to follow a fixed format to minimize confusion and to force the parties to take a clear position. I usually make an attempt to get them to find a mutually-acceptable solution with my assistance as facilitator, but only so long as that is showing genuine promise. I will also attempt to educate the parties in parenting, child development, communication, and conflict resolution, but not at the expense of resolving the dispute.
The cost of Special Master can vary enormously because it depends on how many petitions are submitted. The initial retainer is usually between $2,000 and $10,000 with an average of $5,000. It often takes several weeks or longer to get all of the required paperwork in place and the appointment order signed and filed. The initial retainer is usually enough to cover the first six months of work and is renewable monthly.
Special Master terms are usually between one and five years initially, with the average being about three years, with an option to renew annually.
It is my standard policy for all Special Master appointments that the parties sign the long-form appointment stipulation and have reviewing attorneys who also sign the stipulation.