There are other ways of coming to agreements with your ex-spouse outside of court intervention. In Minnesota, parties can choose from a wide variety of alternative dispute resolution options. The most common three are social early neutral evaluations (“SENE”), financial early neutral evaluations (“FENE”), and mediations (facilitative or evaluative).
SENEs, or Custody and Parenting Time Evaluation CPENE (depending on your county), is an evaluative process outside of court in which two neutral evaluators give a neutral opinion of the strengths and weaknesses of your case pertaining to custody and parenting time. Parties typically use this process at the beginning of a divorce or custody case. The parties’ attorneys are present and the two evaluators, a male and female, are selected or assigned to the case.
Each party will tell the evaluators what they are seeking for custody and parenting time and why they believe their proposal is in the best interests of the children. The evaluators will allow each side one turn at rebuttal. The evaluators then discuss and reconvene the session and provide their feedback regarding what they think the likely outcome of the case will be if it went to court. Parties will then have the opportunity to discuss with their attorney privately about three options: (1) to agree with the recommendations; (2) to agree with some of the recommendations and propose changes to some portions; or (3) to disagree completely and walk away from the discussions. The parties will then begin negotiating the terms of the settlement agreement. Sometimes there will be a full agreement on all issues. Other times, there may simply be a temporary agreement or a partial agreement.
An FENE is held with an evaluator, someone who is a highly skilled attorney or accountant, with an extensive working knowledge of property issues addressed within Minnesota family law. These evaluators have generally worked with the courts long enough to have a very good feel for how a judge is likely to decide regarding your property issues. While your evaluator is not able to predict exactly what the judge will decide in your particular case, he or she can assist you in determining what property is marital or non-marital, give you creative options for handling various pay-outs such as spousal maintenance or the division of a 401k, and will even keep you grounded when the stress of the divorce has you spending attorney’s fees to insist upon relatively worthless and easily-replaced items. Look for an upcoming blog post for a more in depth discussion on mediation and its pros and cons.
If you are looking for an attorney who is experienced in advocating for a client during an SENE or FENE, call Arnold, Rodman and Kretchmer, PLLC today at 952-955-8008 to schedule an initial consultation.
Written by: Associate Attorney, Alison Grafsgaard