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Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE)

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) – What is it?

An early neutral evaluation (ENE) is one form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Typically, as it sounds, it occurs early in a divorce or family law case.

The purpose of any early neutral evaluation (ENE) is to try to help the parties resolve their dispute and reach an agreement on the contested issues.

The process is confidential. It is also non-binding- meaning that the evaluators cannot force a decision onto either party.

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) – 2 Types in Minnesota

There are 2 types of early neutral evaluations.  

The first is a Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE) :  

  • An SENE is used when there is a custody and/or parenting time dispute.
  • An SENE also typically involves two evaluators, one man and one woman.

The second is a Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE) :  

  • An FENE is used when there is any child support, spousal maintenance, and/or property issues.  
  • An FENE typically only involves one evaluator.

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) – The Process

Typically the attorneys will negotiate and decide on an evaluator and evaluation process if they feel it is appropriate for the divorce or family law case. An attorney will then submit his/her recommendation to your Judge for approval.

The parties are typically expected to pay the costs of the early neutral evaluation (ENE) 50/50.

Typically, afterward Judicial approval, the attorneys will schedule with the evaluator’s office the actual early neutral evaluation (ENE). The attorneys will then submit relevant documents to the evaluators.

This leads into the early neutral evaluation process itself.

At the evaluation, each side can tell his or her story on the issues in dispute.  Afterwards, the evaluators typically go in one of two ways.

  • Some evaluators prefer to provide their evaluation, which is their opinion on how the case would go if it went to trial. They then try to help the parties reach an agreement, if possible.
  • Other evaluators, prefer to let the parties work together directly and try to guide them towards an agreement. If this doesn’t succeed, the evaluators will then provide their evaluation and again provide the parties a chance to negotiate.

If the parties reach an agreement, they can put it in writing and submit it to the court for approval. Typically one of the attorneys for one of the parties will draft that document.

In that event, if the court approves, the case ends and the agreement becomes a court order.

If the parties do not reach an agreement from the ENE, the case moves forward in the legal process.

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