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Late Case Evaluation
For those engaged in the divorce process in Atlanta or in Fulton County, Georgia, a late case evaluation may be a worthwhile alternative to a stressful and expensive Georgia divorce trial.
Late case evaluations generally occur later on in the course of a Georgia divorce or other domestic relations matter, as the name suggests. Typically, if the presiding judge or judicial officer believes a late case evaluation may result in settlement of a matter, thus obviating the need for trial, the court will schedule the evaluation at the 120 Day Status Conference. Although late case evaluations are either schedule at or after the 120 Day Status Conference, according to the Fulton County Family Court Rules, late case evaluations may be scheduled any time after the discovery process in the matter has concluded. Rule 4000-3.4.1,Fulton County Family Court Revised Rules.
A late case evaluation may help the parties settle their case instead of taking the case to a stressful and expensive trial.
During a late case evaluation, a neutral late case evaluator, hears from both parties and makes a non-binding recommendation concerning settlement based on his or her experience. Rule 4000-3.4. Put another way, the neutral late case evaluator evaluates of the strengths and weaknesses of each parties’ position, and advises the parties concerning what the likely result will be should the matter proceed to final trial. Late case evaluators are neutral third parties who have no interest in the outcome of the case. Normally, late case evaluators are family law attorneys with at least 10 years of experience, but retired judges and current Superior Court Judges not assigned to the case may also serve as evaluators. Rule 3000-1 and 3000-2. Parties are encouraged to agree on a late case evaluator, but if the parties are unable to agree to a neutral, the court will appoint one. Rule 4000-3.4.1. Unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge, in Fulton County, the parties will not be charged the evaluators normal hourly rate until the beginning of the fourth hour of late case evaluation. Fees charged by evaluators vary according to experience. The length of each late case evaluation session varies as well, depending on the facts of the particular case, and the level of each party’s participation.
As briefly mentioned above, the purpose of late case evaluation is to give parties an outside perspective on the relative merits and weaknesses of their case. During the throes of a divorce or other family law case, it is often easy to become myopic and entrenched in one’s own position. Late case evaluation serves as a reality check for some litigants regarding their real chances and provides them guidance regarding potential paths to settlement. Although a late case evaluator cannot force the parties to a divorce to settle their case, and the evaluation or opinion expressed by the evaluator is not binding on either party, late case evaluation is one of many useful tools available to help parties avoid the cost and emotional turmoil often associated with divorce trials.