iFLG offers Early neutral evaluation, sometimes known as private judging, to help a couple settle a case out of court.
It is a process in which an experienced lawyer gives an indication, as strong and as detailed as the disclosure at that early stage allows, of what would be the outcome if the matter were to be finally adjudicated in court. It therefore avoids having to go to court
Primarily it saves costs of going on to a final hearing. These costs can sometimes be very high and represent more than half of the entire costs of a case. It is much quicker than a final hearing. It can be arranged at a time to suit the parties including out of normal office hours if preferred. It saves the delay of going to court which can often be many months ahead. It saves the hostile and contentious environment of the fully contested final court hearing
It can be done in the conventional way at a meeting or, if preferred, on paper.
Most early neutral evaluations is what lawyers call privileged, without prejudice. This means it is not open and binding on the parties and cannot subsequently be referred to in any subsequent court proceedings. The advantage is that privileged offers which have already been made can be discussed to find a way to settle.
It is modelled on the in court FDR hearing, financial dispute resolution, at which the judge is required by the rules to predict what would happen if the matter were to go to a final hearing. These hearings are very successful at settling cases. But they have their limitations. There is only a limited amount of time which the judge can commit. It is inevitably within the court room setting. The judge is chosen by the court office and not by the parties themselves who may prefer a particular senior lawyer with experience in a particular sort of dispute. There are many advantages of a private early neutral evaluation. It has similarities with arbitration although that is open and binding. Some considering arbitration nevertheless choose private early neutral evaluation.
Sometimes the early neutral evaluation deals with the entire case e.g. the financial settlement on divorce or other relationship breakdown. But sometimes it can be a single discrete issue causing difficulties for the couple to settle. Once this discrete issue is resolved through early neutral evaluation, the rest of the dispute is likely to be able to resolve itself. Early neutral evaluation is flexible to cover both situations
Early neutral evaluation is most often used in finance and forum disputes but is also suitable in children cases. iFLG has promoted its use in child relocation cases, where very substantial costs are sometimes incurred but could be avoided if there was an early neutral evaluation at, obviously, an early stage as to what would be likely to happen if there was a court case.
Early neutral evaluation is not mediation. The person conducting it gives an opinion, based on considerable legal experience, on what is likely to happen if the matter went to court. Invariably it then leads to the negotiations to settle the matter. Where the person conducting the early neutral evaluation is also a mediator, the spirit and tone of the mediation process can be brought to assist the parties
Lawyers often conduct the early neutral evaluation on behalf of clients but it is perfectly suitable and appropriate for clients to do it themselves.
David Hodson of iFLG has conducted very many in court early neutral evaluations as a part-time judge, most leading to a successful outcome. He is also a mediator and arbitrator. He is a very experienced family lawyer and able to conduct private early neutral evaluations, private judging. He is willing to agree specific arrangements and terms as suits the parties themselves. Often a fixed fee can be agreed.