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) 783-5146 or submit an online contact inquiry through our website. We look forward to speaking with you.