SUPERIOR COURT ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NUMBER 23
Under authority conferred by the New Hampshire Supreme Court,
the following Administrative Order is issued.
In all domestic cases in which disputed issues are submitted
for neutral evaluation by agreement of the parties or by Order of
the Court, the attached Protocol shall apply.
NEUTRAL EVALUATION IN DOMESTIC RELATIONS CASES
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT
A. NEUTRAL EVALUATION
The goal of Neutral Evaluation is
to help the parties resolve the disputed issues of their
case. As part of the process the Neutral Evaluator will
listen to each party's view of the case and attempt to
facilitate a dialogue between them to settle the dispute.
Should any issue remain unresolved, the evaluator shall
explain to the parties the likely outcome should the case go
to trial. The process is confidential and any evaluation may
be accepted or rejected by the parties.
B. CASES ELIGIBLE FOR NEUTRAL
- Subject to (2) below, all
pending domestic cases are eligible for referral to
Neutral Evaluation by agreement of both parties or by
order of the Court.
- Cases involving domestic
violence will not ordinarily be referred to Neutral
Evaluation unless the victim is represented by counsel.
- All Neutral Evaluators shall be
attorneys approved by the Chief Justice of the Superior
Court. All approved Neutral Evaluators must have a
minimum of 5 years of active practice with substantial
experience with domestic cases. In addition, the
applicants' trial and alternative dispute resolution
experience shall be considered.
- All Neutral Evaluators must
successfully complete the Court approved training
- Upon receipt of a notice of
appointment in a case, the Neutral Evaluator shall
disclose any circumstances likely to create a conflict of
interest, the appearance of a conflict of interest, a
reasonable inference of bias, or other matters that may
prevent the process from proceeding as scheduled. If the
Neutral Evaluator withdraws, has a conflict of interest,
or is otherwise unavailable, another shall be appointed
by the Court.
D. ROLE OF THE NEUTRAL
Neutral Evaluators serve at the
request of the Court and are quasi-judicial officers. Neutral
Evaluators shall have immunity from suit to the extent
provided by law. Neutral Evaluators do not act as legal
advisors or legal representatives to any party.
E. INADMISSIBILITY OF NEUTRAL
- Neutral Evaluation proceedings
under this rule are non- binding and shall not impair the
right of the litigants to demand a trial. Neutral
Evaluation proceedings and information relating to these
proceedings shall be confidential except as provided at
RSA 169-C:29. Information, evidence, or the admission of
any party or the evaluation placed on the case by the
Neutral Evaluator, shall not be disclosed or used in any
subsequent proceeding. Statements made and documents
prepared by a party, attorney, or other participant in
aid of such proceedings shall be privileged and shall not
be disclosed to any Court or construed for any purpose as
an admission against interest. All Neutral Evaluation
proceedings are deemed Settlement Conferences as
prescribed in the Superior Court Rules and in the Rules
of Evidence. In addition, the parties shall not introduce
into evidence in any subsequent proceedings the fact that
there has been a Neutral Evaluation proceeding or any
other matter concerning the conduct of the Neutral
- There shall be no record made of
any proceedings under this rule.
- Evidence that would otherwise be
admissible at trial shall not be rendered inadmissible as
a result of its use in a Neutral Evaluation proceeding
under this rule.
F. NEUTRAL EVALUATION PROCESS
- If Neutral Evaluation is agreed
to by the parties or ordered by the Court, the Court
shall assign a Neutral Evaluator to the case. The order
for Neutral Evaluation shall provide the parties with the
Neutral Evaluator's name and address, the time, date and
place of the evaluation conference and the date by which
the parties shall furnish the Neutral Evaluator with the
required information and documents. All Neutral
Evaluations shall be conducted at a courthouse.
- By the date specified, the
parties shall exchange and submit to the Neutral
Evaluator a summary of the significant aspects of their
case not to exceed four pages. The summary shall include
a statement of those matters agreed to by the parties and
those matters which remain contested. The parties shall
attach to the summary copies of all documents, financial
affidavits, proposed decrees and other documents the
parties deem relevant for a Neutral Evaluation. Upon
receipt of a party's submission, the opposing party may
send additional information responding to that
submission. All such responsive submissions shall be
exchanged with opposing counsel/party and shall contain a
statement of compliance with the exchange requirement.
Except as provided above, parties shall not communicate
with the Neutral Evaluator concerning their case.
If a Neutral Evaluator deems it necessary, he or she may
request additional written information from any party.
The Neutral Evaluator shall have access to any Guardian
Ad Litem evaluation.
- All parties shall file a current
financial affidavit with the court prior to the Neutral
- All parties and counsel shall be
present at the neutral evaluation, a corespondent may be
present. In addition, any other person who can make a
significant contribution to the Neutral Evaluation may
attend. As part of the process the Neutral Evaluator may
caucus privately with any party, with or without counsel.
In addition, any non party may be removed by the Neutral
Evaluator if disruptive to the process or for any other
reason that the Neutral Evaluator deems appropriate. The
Neutral Evaluator may terminate the process at any time
at the evaluator's sole discretion.
- The Neutral Evaluator shall make
no report of the substance of the evaluation but shall
report to the Court the failure of any party to comply
with this rule. The evaluator may respond to
informational requests by the Court to evaluate the