Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE), Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE), and mediation are all different processes for alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR is commonly used in family law to help litigants settle their cases and avoid a costly trial. Trial bound cases can take months to bring to a conclusion and both parties are generally not satisfied with the judge’s ruling. By using an ADR process like a FENE, SENE, or mediation, parties are allowed to have more control in the outcome of their case.

Mediations, FENEs, and SENEs are voluntary processes. Therefore, both parties must to be willing to attempt the ADR program. Parties are not forced to settle their case. If the ADR process fails, the case will move forward through litigation to a trial.

Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE)

A FENE is an ADR method that focuses on finances. This may include child support, debt division, and spousal maintenance. Each FENE is generally between three and four hours. During the financial evaluation, a neutral family law professional will assess both parties’ information and arguments. The evaluator will look at financials such as bank statements, budgets, and income information. They will make a conclusion on how judges will likely rule based on the law and the individual case facts. Parties also have the opportunity to try and settle their disagreements and come to a mutual agreement.

Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE)

Different from a FENE, a SENE requires two family law evaluators: one male and one female. This eliminates any suspicion of bias and allows for different points of view. A SENE will focus solely on social disputes about custody and parenting time. The evaluators will use different applicable laws such as Minnesota’s “best interest” statute to determine how a judge would likely rule. Like the FENE, the evaluation generally takes three to four hours and parties have the ability to try to settle their case.


As an alternative, parties can attend mediation for both financial and social topics. Instead of having an evaluator, like a SENE or FENE, a mediator will be present. A mediator is typically an experienced family law lawyer.  The purpose of having a mediator present is to help facilitate negotiations and settlement in a neutral environment. The length of mediation can vary and some require two sessions to settle the case. Many judgment and decrees include a mediation clause, which requires parties to attend mediation if post-decree problems arise. The intention of a mediation clause is to attempt settlement prior to proceeding to litigation.

If you are looking for an attorney or an ADR professional, contact our office today. Our experience lawyers are ready to assist. Call (763) 323-6555 or submit an online contact inquiry through our website. We look forward to speaking with you.

Photo of Jason Brown Jason Brown

Jason Brown founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A. in 2003 after working for several years as an associate attorney in downtown Minneapolis. He graduated with honors from Mankato State University in 1997 and the William Mitchell College of Law in 2000.

Jason has…

Jason Brown founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A. in 2003 after working for several years as an associate attorney in downtown Minneapolis. He graduated with honors from Mankato State University in 1997 and the William Mitchell College of Law in 2000.

Jason has successfully litigated against some of the more recognized family law attorneys in the Twin Cities. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters, and one of the Top 100 Family Law Attorneys in Minnesota by the Society of Legal Advocates.

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Jason serves as a mediator, and court-appointed early neutral evaluator, in divorce and family law cases throughout Minnesota. He frequently writes and speaks concerning divorce and family law issues, including several invitations to present seminars for the Minnesota Judicial Branch in St. Paul.

Beyond family law, Jason has represented hundreds of clients accused of a serious crime, including arson, fraud, unauthorized computer access, burglary, felony strangulation and obstruction of justice. He also provides estate planning services.

Local media appearances by Jason include WCCO Radio, KARE 11 Television, Fox 9 Television and WCCO Television. His national media appearances include NBC News, Time Magazine, USA Today and the Huffington Post.

Jason is the former chairperson of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota Trial Lawyer’s Association, and taught divorce and family law coursework within the paralegal program at North Hennepin Community College. He publishes the Minnesota Family Law Blog, which has been recognized as a “Top 25″ by the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Outside of the office, Jason enjoys playing the bass and electric guitar and spending time in the north woods of Wisconsin.

Areas of Practice
  • Divorce
  • Custody
  • Adoption
  • Restraining Orders
  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • Criminal Defense
  • Estate Planning
Notable Cases
  • Representation of Four Grandparents in Minnesota’s First Quad-Parenting Adoption
  • Representation of Client in Minnesota’s First Same-Sex Divorce
Bar Admissions
  • Minnesota State Bar, 2000
  • US District Court – District of Minnesota, 2002
  • William Mitchell College of Law, 2000
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato, 1997
Joined Firm
  • 2003
Professional Associations & Activities
  • Minnesota State Bar Association
  • Presenter, Various CLE Courses
  • Monthly Columnist, Minnesota Lawyer Newspaper