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What Is Early Neutral Evaluation?

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The Exorbitant Costs of Divorce Litigation

There are two main types of divorce: uncontested divorce and contested divorce. With an uncontested divorce, the spouses are amenable to divorce and have no outstanding child custody or property issues to settle, either because they have no children and marital property or they have already entered into an agreement. These divorces are quick and painless.

However, contested divorces are long and drawn out. They are usually costly, stressful, and emotional. In addition, if the parties refuse to agree on how to divide assets or handle custody and visitation, the court has to sort these issues out for them. This can lead to a result that is even more undesirable than any decision that the parties would have arrived to on their own through compromise.

Most couples going through divorce hire their own divorce attorneys. Family law and property law are so complex that it is very impractical and ill-advised to proceed with a contested divorce without legal counsel. Naturally, divorces can be incredibly costly. Unlike a civil lawsuit where you hope for a big fat check at the end, you may not get a windfall of money in a divorce. Even though you may not walk away from the divorce with a ton of money, you still have you pay your lawyer’s hourly fees.

Avoiding Trial through Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a alternative solution to a formal divorce trial. It occurs outside of the courtroom but can result in a legally binding agreement that is recognized by the courts and is legally enforceable. Given high divorce rates in the country, resulting in bogged-down court calendars, most judges require that a couple seeking a contested divorce to first attempt ADR prior to proceeding with the court case.

What Is Early Neutral Evaluation?

One form of ADR is early neutral evaluation (ENE), which is similar to mediation. ENE employs a neutral third party to review the issues in the case and provide an objective evaluation to the couple. The reasoning behind ordering ENE is that, frequently, emotions leading to the divorce cloud a couple’s judgment. By hearing a neutral evaluation about the assets or custody arrangement, the parties may be able to set aside their emotions, think more clearly, and compromise on a solution.

There are two types of early neutral evaluation – social and financial. Social ENEs focus on child custody and visitation. Judges strongly recommend this form of ENE to parents because lengthy divorce trials often put extreme stress on the children. Since social ENEs focus on non-financial issues, they generally involve two neutral arbiters – one male and one female. Financial ENEs focus on assets and finances, such as alimony, division of property, and child support. These types of ENS typically involve one neutral arbiter.

Do I Need an Attorney for Early Neutral Evaluation?

You will still likely need the assistance of a divorce lawyer for an early neutral evaluation. A divorce lawyer will do all of the work for you, including gathering all of your documents, organizing your action plan, and speaking on your behalf in a clear manner. In addition, your lawyer is hired to represent your best interests, so there is no worry that the lawyer will accept the first compromise offered in hopes of ending the case early.

Photo of page author Jess UF

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 10-05-2015 03:06 AM PDT

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