“Early Evaluation Program” (EEP) is a court-ordered dispute resolution process in which a trained evaluator provides an evaluation of the probable outcome of a dispute.
The “Evaluator” means a court-appointed individual who conducts the EEP session and who meets all of the following qualifications:
- A minimum of twelve hours of basic mediation training;
- A minimum of forty hours of specialized family or divorce mediation training;
- Fourteen hours of specialized training in domestic abuse issues provided by the Supreme Court of Ohio Dispute Resolution Section and
- Other criteria as directed by the Court.
“EEP Communication” means a statement, whether oral, in a record, verbal or nonverbal, that occurs during an EEP session or is made for purposes of considering, conducting, participating in, initiating, continuing, or reconvening an EEP session.
(B) Case Selection and Referral
EEP will be court ordered in pro se cases and is an option available for all juvenile court cases regarding paternity and custody. The fee for EEP is $ 300.00, which is to be paid no later than fourteen days prior to the scheduled EEP session.
The parties can request EEP through a motion to the Court. Also, the Court, on its own motion, may order parties to the EEP in whole or in part, by completing an Entry Ordering EEP or Magistrate’s Order for EEP.
The EEP session will require the participation of each parent and their respective attorneys, if applicable. No other person will be permitted to participate without prior approval of the Court.
(D) Scheduling Procedure
Upon approval of an Agreed Entry or issuance of an Entry Ordering EEP, the matter shall be set on the calendar of the EEP Evaluator by the Court. EEP sessions will be scheduled Monday through Friday, during court hours. A post-EEP hearing with the assigned Judge or Magistrate will also be scheduled at this time. The sessions will be scheduled for 3 hours and shall be set to begin at either 9:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. Additional sessions may be requested via Motion and additional order from the Court.
(E) Prior to your session
Parties must pay their balance no less than fourteen (14) days before the day of mediation.
Parties should gather their documentation and previous paperwork to bring to the mediation. The EEP evaluator will likely review any documentation necessary to assist with the mediation process.
(F) Session Procedure
In a perfect setting, the EEP session will be divided into three phases; the first of which is Information Gathering and at this phase, the Evaluator will oversee any discussion to allow each parent and/or attorney the opportunity to be heard in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect. The Evaluator will seek additional information from the parties, if necessary.
Once the information is gathered, the Evaluator will meet privately with the parties to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each parent’s position and to discuss probable outcomes for the parents.
The final phase will allow the Evaluator to present their feedback and options to all parties present at the session. The parents will be given an opportunity to consult privately with their attorneys to review and discuss the Evaluator’s feedback. Once the parties reconvene, the Evaluator will pursue the opportunity to come to a full or partial agreement. If the parents come to a full or partial agreement, the Evaluator will assist with writing down the agreement into a Memorandum which the parties will then sign. If at all possible, the Court will hear the agreement read into the record in an effort to reduce additional court appearances and court costs. If attorneys are representing the party, the attorney will prepare the final judgment entry which incorporates the agreement reached and a final judgment entry will be mailed out. If the parties are not represented by an attorney, the Court will prepare the final judgment entry which will be mailed out.
Early Evaluation Program communications are confidential. Exceptions to confidentiality include the following:
- Parties may share all EEP communications with their attorneys;
- Allegations of abuse or neglect of a child;
- Certain threats of harm to other people or oneself;
- Statements made during the EEP process to plan or to hide an ongoing crime;
- Statements made during the EEP process that reveal a felony.
An EEP communication is privileged and not subject to discovery or admissible as evidence in a judicial proceeding. An Early Neutral Evaluator may not be deposed or subpoenaed to testify about any EEP communication unless an exception applies.
Exceptions to privilege include the following:
- The EEP communication is otherwise discoverable;
- The EEP communication is an imminent threat or statement of a plan to inflict bodily injury or commit a crime of violence;
- The EEP communication is intentionally used to plan, to attempt to commit, or to commit a crime or to conceal an ongoing crime or ongoing criminal activity;
- The EEP communication is required to be disclosed pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §2921.22.
It is the policy of this Court to determine matters in a timely manner. A motion seeking a continuance of a scheduled EEP will be required, with proper notice provided and pursuant to Local Rules. A continuance of a scheduled EEP session shall be granted only for good cause shown.
Any party or attorney who violates these rules may be subject to appropriate sanctions, including but not limited to, additional fees, forfeiture of paid EEP fee, contempt of court, attorney fees, or costs.