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What is neutral evaluation?

Other than mediation and litigation, other methods that are available to settle the outstanding issues are neutral evaluation, arbitration and mediation/arbitration. Neutral evaluation is a process whereby the spouses jointly retain a professional evaluator, who is usually an experienced family lawyer, to provide a formal opinion of the probable outcome of the issues presented to the evaluator. This process usually involves the participation of the spouses and their lawyers. The lawyers present the evaluator with a brief that consists of each spouse’s position, the relevant evidence and the legal authorities that he or she relies on. The purpose of neutral evaluation is to assist the spouses and their lawyers to overcome an issue that prevents the case from moving forward. For example, one spouse may believe that spousal support should be paid for a period of no more than five years, while the other spouse believes that spousal support payments should not end. In neutral evaluation, unlike mediation, the evaluator is specifically retained to provide an opinion and the reasons for that opinion.