I recently wrote a post explaining what a special master is in Utah divorces.
In that post, I explained parents give special masters authority to make decisions. They do that by signing special master agreements, and I thought it might be helpful to show you what’s in one of those agreements.
Special Master Retainer Agreement
The Court has appointed or Parties have stipulated to XXXX as Special Master in this case to assist in resolving parenting disputes concerning Parties’ children. We hereby stipulate and agree to these terms and conditions:
- In accordance with applicable law, it is anticipated that the role of Special Master is to assist Parties in resolving conflict outside of the courtroom and is limited to those powers defined in the Court Order appointing a special master. If not defined, that role will be limited to decisions regarding parent-time such as dates, times, exchanges, routine care and discipline. In no case is Special Master able to make a final adjudication as to custody or visitation or make decisions significantly affecting Court Orders.
- Special Master will meet with each Party in person or via telephone within two weeks of their executing this Agreement. Each Party may submit whatever documentation he or she wishes me to review prior to that meeting. Any documents submitted to Special Master shall be provided to the other Party as well.
- We understand that at all times Special Master will be an advocated for the best interests of our children.
- Because information provided in that discussion may be ultimately considered by Special Master in making decisions, if that is necessary, confidentiality is not insured.
- Special Master must report any claims of child abuse not previously reported to a law enforcement agency.
- All written communications between Parties concerning the children shall be copied to Special Master.
- In the event Parties wish to submit a matter to Special Master for decision, Party should identify the email in the subject line as one requiring decision. The initial request shall include a summary of the issue and problem. The other Party may respond, and must do so within 24 hours. If the initiating Party wishes to reply to the response, he or she may do so within 24 hours. Otherwise, the initiating Party should simply ask Special Master to decide.
- Special Master shall provide a decision within three working days. If the issue requires immediate decision, Special Master will attempt to provide that decision, in writing, by email as soon as possible. If Special Master is going to be unavailable for more than three working days, he will inform Parties.
- If a matter requires immediate decision, Parties shall provide their positions to Special Master as quickly as possible, and Special Master will attempt to render a decision in a timely manner.
- If either Party is dissatisfied with a decision of Special Master, he or she may ask the Court to review the decision or stipulation. In the event the decision is to be challenged, Party challenging the decision shall provide a copy of the Motion to the other Party and Special Master.
- In the event one of Parties fails to comply with the decision of Special Master, Special Master has no power to make a finding of contempt or to punish. Special Master may also make recommendations to the Court regarding contempt or other significant sanctions, if appropriate.
- Special Master may consult with professionals who have information about the children, including therapists, school teachers, custody evaluators, medical providers, and the like, and such information may be considered by Special Master in making decisions. Parties will execute any authorizations to facilitate this communication. That authorization shall not include the right to access privileged communications between the therapists and their clients.
- Parties agree not to request, subpoena or demand the production of any record, notes, email or other communication or work product of Special Master concerning her work with Parties.
- Special Master shall not be called as a witness or deposed in this or any subsequent proceeding, unless required by statute or Court Order.
- Parties will pay Special Master $180 an hour. This includes time spent with Parties, phone conferences, reviewing documents and correspondence, meeting with others and preparing decisions. Further, the review or writing of each email, other than emails scheduling meetings, will be charged at one tenth of an hour.
- Each Party will pay one half of the fees for Special Master, and each will deposit $1,500 in Special Master’s Trust Account. Parties will be billed monthly, and when the retainer falls below $500, Parties will be asked to replenish it. Any unused retainer will be returned to Parties at the termination of Special Master’s appointment.
- Special Master may allot the assessment of fees unequally, if she determines that one Party’s conduct or intransigence has caused expense.
- Non-payment of retainers or costs and fees shall be grounds for resignation of Special Master.
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