A traditional divorce can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, and a process you and your spouse may wish to avoid, if possible. Fortunately, Minnesota allows for an alternate means of resolving custody issues, parenting time and money disagreements that do not require you to go to court.
The courts refer to the process by which you can resolve typical divorce issues outside of court as an Early Neutral Evaluation. An ENE is a voluntary process that requires you and your spouse to be able to negotiate and agree on divorce stipulations for it to be successful. According to LawHelpMN.org, there are two types of ENEs you can go through: a social ENE and a financial ENE.
A social ENE deals with the “social” aspects of divorce, such as physical custody, legal custody and parenting time. Social ENEs take about three hours to complete and require the assistance of two evaluators — one male and one female, to keep the process fair — and the presence of your attorneys, if you each have one.
In most cases, a SENE occurs within one to three weeks of your Initial Case Management Conference. However, you must complete it within a certain timeframe, which is typically within 45 days of the ICMC.
The purpose of a financial ENE is to help you and your spouse sort out the financial issues of your divorce. These include issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, property division, division of debt and other money matters. In most cases, a FENE occurs after you settle social matters. A FENE only requires the presence of one neutral evaluator and, if applicable, your attorneys.
FENEs often require more time than SENEs, which is why most evaluators block out anywhere from three to six hours of time for the process. Most judges require financial ENEs to occur within 60 days of the ICMC.
An ENE can significantly reduce the time and cost of your divorce. If you and your spouse are interested in going the ENE route, discuss the possibility with your respective attorneys.