What is Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE)?

August 12, 2013  |  Elizabeth A. Schading

Early Neutral Evaluation, or ENE, has become a pretty common component of family law cases in Minnesota. It’s a voluntary process of evaluating and mediating the issues of a divorce.
Parties may opt into Financial Early Neutral Evaluation. This will be conducted by one skilled evaluator, who may be an attorney or accountant. In the case of divorce or other family matter involving children, parties may opt into Custody/Parenting Time (CPENE) also known as Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE). This will be conducted by a male/female team who are experienced family law attorneys, social workers, psychologists, or other professionals knowledgeable about children’s best interests. Some couples will use both processes.
How Does It Work?
You, your spouse or other parent, and attorneys (if you have them) will meet with the evaluator(s). The process will take three or four hours, and a fee will be assessed prior to the meeting so that you will know how much it will cost.
Each side has the chance to present their information about how they feel the issues should be resolved. The evaluators will ask questions.
Ideally, an agreement will be reached, just like in any divorce mediation. We recommend our clients go into an ENE with an open mind if they choose to exercise the option, just as in any divorce mediation.
If there is no agreement; the mediators offer an “evaluation.” Essentially this is a non-binding assessment of how the mediators believe the courts will rule in the hopes that this information encourages you and your spouse to use this information to settle your case.
Should I Worry About an ENE?
No. The ENE is designed to keep your case from proceeding to trial. There is no penalty if you can’t resolve your issues during the ENE.
In fact, the ENE process is completely confidential. If no agreement is reached, the evaluators will so inform the court. No details about the ENE are revealed to the court, which means it would have no bearing on any decision a judge makes about your case. In fact, a judge’s actual ruling may be completely different from the opinions of the ENE evaluators. Your attorney may have completely different ideas about likely outcomes as well.
If agreement is reached, then a summary of the agreement will be sent to your judge that binds the parties to the agreement pending entry of a final decree.
ENE occurs early in the divorce process. If agreement cannot be reached, it does not stop you from getting your own divorce mediator later, one who will not be concerned with attempting to predict outcomes. Normal divorce mediation is mainly concerned with creating a divorce settlement that both sides can live with.
If you’re uncertain about whether or not you should participate in an ENE or if you are looking for a qualified family law attorney to assist you with any part of your divorce, call BGS. We’re experienced divorce attorneys who can help you get the best outcome for your unique situation. Call us today!