Minnesota residents know that divorce can turn into a traumatic and painful experience. If both parties are unwilling to compromise, the process can become drawn out and arduous. However, a number of Minnesota counties, including Hennepin and Ramsey, have a process that can help divorcing couples reach an agreement on most divorce issues.
The Early Neutral Evaluation process is used by courts in many counties to help resolve issues that divorcing parties have been unable to agree on. It is not a formal court procedure, but a voluntary process that both parties and their attorneys must agree to participate in. There are circumstances in which an individual may not wish to participate in ENE, including if one party is fearful of the other; if one party has been abusing the other; if only one party has a lawyer; or if one party believes that the other will not act honestly during the process.
Minnesota has two kinds of ENE: social and financial. Social ENE is used to resolve issues of child custody and parenting time. A financial ENE is used to resolve property disagreements and has most of the same parameters as a social ENE.
During the ENE the evaluators will ask each party to present their case informally. They may also ask each party questions. There can be no interruptions by another party while the other is speaking. After both parties have spoken, the evaluators will meet privately for 15 minutes to consider each party's request. They will then tell the parties what they think will happen if the issues are presented in court. The evaluators will then ask the parties to try and come to an agreement on any issues that are outstanding. Afterwards, they will write a report and inform the judge about what has happened. Issues that are not resolved will need to be decided by the court.
Source: www.mncourts.gov, "Family court process: early neutral evaluation," accessed May 17, 2015