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What is an “Early Neutral Evaluation” in a MN divorce?

Divorce in Minnesota typically requires several steps, the first of which is the Initial Case Management Conference. The ICMC is the first appearance you and your spouse will make in family court. During the ICMC, which usually takes place within three to four weeks of the date you file, you, the other party, the judge and, if applicable, each party’s attorney, will work to resolve as many differences as possible. 

If you and your spouse fail to resolve all of your issues during the ICMC, the judge may recommend that you move onto the second stage of the divorce process. MN law refers to this stage as the Early Neutral Evaluation. 

An overview of the Early Neutral Evaluation

Per, an Early Neutral Evaluation is an alternative dispute resolution process that the courts may use to help parties resolve issues pertaining to parenting time, custody or property distribution. ENE is voluntary. However, the courts typically recommend it because, when effective, it can help parties avoid the costly and time-consuming process that is litigation. 

When ENE may be right for you

As with mediation or arbitration, Early Neutral Evaluation is not for everyone. You and your spouse may forego the judge’s recommendation if any of the following apply to your case: 

  • You fear the other party, or vice versa 
  • You or the other party is the victim of spousal abuse 
  • Only one of you has an attorney 
  • You suspect that the other party will not be honest during the process 
  • You feel that you cannot honestly address your concerns in front of the other party 

If you can relate to any of the above, ENE may not be right for your situation. However, in most other instances, ENE is a cost-effective alternative to going to court.