Popular keywords

What is family neutral evaluation

It refers to an alternative dispute resolution process commonly known as neutral evaluation. The objective is to help parties reach an early amicable resolution of their dispute without going for a hearing in court.

During family neutral evaluation (FNE), you and the other party (with your respective lawyers) will each present your case and key evidence to the neutral evaluator. The evaluator is a judge or a retired judge with family law experience and expertise. 

FNE is conducted on a non-binding basis. However, parties may decide at the outset for the FNE to be binding on them.

Benefits of family neutral evaluation

With FNE, parties will have the benefit of an early and objective evaluation from a neutral third party with subject matter expertise. You and the other party may then use the evaluation to resolve your dispute, or as a starting point to negotiate a settlement.

Early settlement through neutral evaluation means that you can avoid the cost of preparing for a trial.

It will generally cost parties less to go through a neutral evaluation than a trial.

Neutral evaluation often helps parties to shorten the fact-finding process, as well as clarify and narrow the scope of their dispute and have a better understanding of key issues.

You and the other party will present your respective case before the evaluator, who is a neutral third party with subject matter expertise. Each party will get to hear the case of the other party and the evaluation of the evaluator.  

The evaluator will provide you and the other party with an early, objective and independent evaluation of the case. The evaluation may serve as a reality check and help you and the other party to negotiate a settlement.

Family neutral evaluation pilot programme

Since 15 October 2021, the Family Justice Courts (FJC) have started providing FNE under a pilot programme as an additional alternative dispute resolution option to help parties in a divorce resolve their financial disputes earlier and in a more cost-effective manner. 

The FNE pilot programme will focus on financial ancillary matters.

When it applies

The FJC will identify cases suitable for the pilot programme and invite the parties in these cases to consider FNE.

The programme is a voluntary one and parties are not precluded from opting instead for neutral evaluation offered by bodies such as the Singapore Mediation Centre or the Law Society of Singapore, or other available alternative dispute resolution processes.

Your case will qualify for FNE if all the following criteria are met:

  • You and the other party are represented by counsel.
  • There are no disputes or no issues between you and the other party relating to custody, care and control/access of children.
  • The gross value of the matrimonial assets is less than S$2 million
  • There are no ownership disputes over third party interests in the alleged matrimonial assets.
  • The issues in dispute concern only the following financial ancillary matters:
    • Division of matrimonial assets.
    • Spousal maintenance (wife/incapacitated husband).
    • Maintenance for children.

The process

If divorce proceedings have commenced, and your case is considered suitable for FNE, you can expect the following stages in your FNE process (PDF, 65 KB).

The stageWhat happens
Referral to FNE

You and the other party may be asked by the FJC to consider FNE at the early stages of your case (that is, before parties have filed any affidavits for the ancillary matters).

This may be done during early case conferences or mediation at FJC. You and the other party will be provided with information about FNE (PDF, 154 KB) and guidelines on the FNE process applicable to your case, whether it is referred from conferences (Doc, 1308KB) or Family Dispute Resolution mediation (Doc, 1309 KB).

If you and the other party agree to undergo FNE for your financial ancillary matters, you will need to submit a Joint Consent Form signed by you and the other party, via e-Litigation.

After receipt of the Joint Consent Form (Doc, 77 KB), the evaluator will hold a preliminary conference with you, the other party and your respective lawyers.

Before the preliminary conference

You and the other party will be directed to:

  • Exchange information and supporting documents regarding your assets and means (if this has not been done previously).
  • Submit to the evaluator your respective statements (Doc, 48 KB) for FNE at least 3 working days before the preliminary conference.
Preliminary conference

At the preliminary conference, the evaluator will discuss the following matters with you, the other party and your respective lawyers:

  • The issues that are being referred for FNE.
  • Whether the FNE will be binding or non-binding. 
  • The date for the actual FNE hearing, also known as the FNE session.
  • Any other matters and directions that will facilitate the quick and economical conduct of the FNE.

If you and the other party agree to have a binding FNE, the written agreement for this will have to be prepared by your respective lawyers and the signed agreement must be e-filed before the start of the FNE session.

FNE session

The FNE session, which is usually a half-day event, will be scheduled about 2 weeks from the date of the preliminary conference.

At the FNE session, each party will present his or her case together with the supporting evidence before the evaluator. The usual procedural and evidential rules in a trial will not be applied strictly. 

During the presentation, the evaluator may ask questions to probe or clarify any submission or evidence presented. Where appropriate, the evaluator would also identify areas of agreement or disagreement. 

After hearing the presentations by you and the other party, the evaluator will give an evaluation on the relative merits of the case and provide his/her best estimate of the likely outcome of the case.

Post-FNE case conference

Where it is a non-binding FNE, there will be a case conference about 1 week after the evaluator has delivered his/her evaluation. During the intervening period, parties are expected to deliberate on their position vis-à-vis the evaluation and encouraged to use the evaluation to negotiate a settlement.

If you and the other party reach a settlement, a consent order can be recorded at this case conference.

However, if both parties are unable to reach a settlement, the evaluator will give directions for the efficient disposal of the matters in dispute. Depending on the facts of the case and the stage it is at, this may include directions for you and the other party to proceed for a final session of mediation at FJC, if parties had not previously had mediation for the matters in dispute and the evaluator is of the view that mediation may further assist the parties resolve their dispute.   

How it compares

Understand the main differences between FNE and mediation.

 FNE pilot programmeMediation
Focus and process

An evaluator hears and evaluates the parties’ evidence and legal arguments.

The evaluator also provides parties with an objective evaluation of the relative merits of their case based on evidence and law.

If the parties reach a settlement following the evaluation, a consent order will be recorded to reflect the terms of the settlement agreement.     

A mediator assists the parties in negotiating a mutually acceptable settlement of their dispute, with a consent order recorded to reflect the terms of settlement.

Mediation focuses on finding solutions that meet the concerns of the parties. 

Format of session

All sessions are joint sessions where both parties and their lawyers are present before the evaluator throughout the sessions.

The evaluator does not hold any private sessions with each party.

The mediator may meet parties together, or each party separately in private sessions, to facilitate a settlement. 

Confidentiality

All communications in the course of the FNE and all documents and materials prepared, submitted and or exchanged for the FNE shall:

  • Be kept confidential and treated as “without prejudice”.
  • Not be used as evidence by the parties if the case proceeds to trial, except those which would in any event have been discoverable through other proceedings.

The evaluation provided by the evaluator shall be confidential unless you and the other party agree to a binding FNE.

Estimated fees

There are no fees charged for the FNE during the pilot phase.

Related questions

Yes. Parties are not precluded from participating in other external alternative dispute resolution processes. This can be in the form of mediation conducted by Singapore Mediation Centre or the Law Society Mediation Scheme. 

After FNE, the evaluator may also refer the case to mediation at FJC’s Family Dispute Resolution Division (FDR). This will be for cases where the evaluator is of the view that the parties would benefit from mediation and parties had previously not had mediation at FDR for the matters in dispute.


Share this page:
Facebook
Twitter
Email
Print