Early Neutral Evaluation Can Lead To A Less Stressful Divorce
Litigation can be very costly and time-consuming in divorce. In almost all cases, such litigation is not in the best interest of either party. For a dignified and peaceful process, Minnesota courts sometimes recommend the use of an Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) process. A financial ENE can resolve one or more outstanding property division or support issues, while a social ENE process can address unresolved issues regarding custody or parenting time.
Cases that benefit from an ENE involve clients who would like informed recommendations of an evaluator. Early recommendations provide clients with some idea of how their case may be decided if it went to trial, and thus provide information that is often helpful to reaching an early settlement out of court.
The ENE process is confidential. The early neutral evaluator’s recommendations and the content of settlement discussions are not admissible in court.
In the beginning of the divorce process, the court in many counties holds an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC) where parties meet the Judge assigned to their case and decide upon a process to try and resolve disputed issues in their case. It is at the ICMC, that the court may recommend an FENE or SENE if there are disputed financial or parenting related issues.
More Than 20 Years Of Divorce And Family Law Experience
Linda K. Wray has more than 15 years of experience. She is devoted to resolving her clients’ divorce matters in the most efficient and effective way possible. This includes the use of ENEs, mediation and collaborative law. Call 952-236-4072 to schedule a consultation with an experienced Minneapolis divorce lawyer.
Financial Early Neutral Evaluation: Financial early neutral evaluators are most often chosen from a list provided by the Court. A first meeting with the evaluator generally occurs within two to three weeks of the ICMC. The evaluator will talk with the lawyers to determine the financial issues in dispute, review documents needed to conduct the evaluation, and then meet jointly with the parties and lawyers to identify all relevant facts and positions of each party with respect to each disputed issue. The evaluator then typically gives his or her recommendation for resolving each disputed issue. Following the evaluator’s recommendations, clients meet with their attorneys to discuss the recommendation and then reconvene with the evaluator to negotiate a resolution of the disputed issues. This process may take place over one to three meetings.
Social Early Neutral Evaluation: Evaluators in an SENE are members of Family Court Services (FCS), or in some counties, private attorneys and/or mental health professionals identified on a list provided by the Court. SENEs are typically conducted by a male/female team. An SENE generally is scheduled for a three-hour block of time. Each party is given an opportunity to talk for approximately 20 to 25 minutes about all facts relevant to the disputed parenting time and/or custody issues, and to respond to statements made by the other party.
The evaluators ask questions as needed to clarify points made, and each party’s attorney is provided an opportunity to add any additional information that may be helpful. The evaluators then recess for a short time to discuss the issues and formulate their recommendations. Upon their return, they provide their recommended resolution of each disputed issues. Each party then meets with his or her attorney to discuss the recommendations of the evaluators and options for reaching a settlement.
Finally, the parties, attorneys and evaluators reconvene to attempt to work out a settlement in light of the recommendations provided by the evaluators and each client’s discussions with his or her attorney. The SENE process typically occurs over one to two meetings.