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Social early neutral evaluations are rising in popularity in Minnesota. If the issue of physical or legal custody is in dispute in your divorce, it is likely that the court will encourage you to participate in a Social Early Neutral Evaluation — often referred to as an SENE (Hennepin, Sherburne, Wright, Dakota, Scott County). In Anoka County, the process is known as a Custody and Parenting Time Early Neutral Evaluation, or CPENE. Fortunately, there is about an 80% settlement success rate associated with the process.

An early neutral evaluation is a process that looks a bit like arbitration, and a bit like mediation. It is evaluative in nature, meaning the individuals who are asked to serve as the evaluators will actually offer opinions as to what they believe the likely outcome would be if the divorce were to move forward with a full custody evaluation. This differs from a mediator, who is typically completely neutral).

The parties, and counsel, will meet with the evaluators, one male and one female, to discuss all sorts of issues, including who has been the primary caretaker for the children, the type of relationship each party has with the children, and what each party would like to see in terms of the custody and parenting time arrangement going forward.

Once each party has had an opportunity to present their side of the dispute, the evaluators will ask any questions they have. They will then take a 30 minute break.

During that break, they will discuss the case, and come back with conclusions about what they think would happen in the event that a full custody study were to be performed for the parties. The litigants then use that opinion to springboard into settlement discussions.

Even if your case is handled in a county where they do not have a formal Early Neutral Evaluation program in place, we can privately retain a pair of qualified individuals to serve as early neutral evaluators.

The benefits in getting the case resolved through SENE are relatively straightforward.

First and foremost, you are going to save substantial fees and costs.  If your case were to go to a full custody study, an evaluation often costs $10,000 — or more. The legal fees associated with a custody trial can be anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 — or more.

Second, the matter will be resolved in a matter of months, as opposed to a matter of years.

Finally, you and your spouse will own the agreement.  You can craft something that is highly unique to the two of you — rather than having a judge impose something on you, and telling you to “live with it.”

We’re here to help if you have social early neutral evaluation questions. Call (763) 783-5146 to arrange a consultation.