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What are the Goals of Early Neutral Evaluation?

ENE attempts to enhance direct communication between the parties about their respective claims and supporting evidence.  ENE provides an educated assessment of the merits of the case by a neutral expert.  ENE provides parties and their counsel with a “reality check.”  ENE facilitates the discovery process with an informal exchange of relevant information.  ENE provides an experienced practitioner’s opinion as to the most likely outcome of the case if it should proceed to trial based on the facts presented and the applicable law.  It does not necessarily reflect the evaluator’s personal conviction about what the result should be; rather it is a neutral prediction of how the case will most likely be decided given the current state of the law. 

How does the Early Neutral Evaluation Process Work?

The parties agree on an evaluator, and also agree on the issues to be submitted to ENE.  If only one party and his/her attorney choose to meet with the evaluator, that party makes an independent choice.  If both parties are involved, they enter into a contract with the chosen evaluator.  The Divorce Cooperation Institute Early Neutral Evaluation Agreement can be accessed as follows: 

In addition to completing the DCI ENE Agreement, the parties also complete an ENE Intake Form.  Both forms can be downloaded for your use. 

The evaluator will request an exchange of information relevant to the dispute, and all information will be exchanged with opposing party, as well as the evaluator, prior to the appointment. 

Both parties and their attorneys (or one party and his/her attorney if both parties are not involved in the ENE process) will attend an informal meeting with the evaluator.  At this meeting, each party has the opportunity to present his/her position, summarizing or making offers of proof of evidence, and providing legal argument, including case law precedent and statutory or administrative code authority to support his/her position.  The rules of evidence do not apply.  Neither direct nor cross-examination of witnesses occurs. 

The evaluator chairs the meeting and participates in it by identifying areas of agreement, clarifying and focusing issues, and encouraging the parties to reach agreement about both procedural and substantive issues.  The evaluator then assesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case.  This assessment, and the reasoning behind it, may be presented to the parties orally or may be in the form of a written report.  Each party is entitled to receive the evaluator’s assessment of both parties’ positions, unless the parties agree otherwise. 

If requested, the evaluator may facilitate settlement discussions, either in a subsequent meeting between the parties and counsel or via shuttle diplomacy.  Also, if requested, the evaluator may follow up by helping the parties devise a plan for obtaining and disclosing additional needed information; by making a recommendation for settlement; by helping the parties realistically assess the cost of litigation; by assisting the parties in moving to another form of dispute resolution; or in any other manner mutually requested by the parties. 

What are the Advantages of the Divorce Cooperation Institute’s Early Neutral Evaluation Service?
  • Quick access to many of the state’s most experienced family law attorneys, who recognize the extraordinary burdens litigation places on many families and have a demonstrated commitment to alternative dispute resolution. 

  • An unbiased second opinion, providing a reality check for both client and counsel.

  • The opportunity to avoid excessive discovery costs and delays, and the opportunity to reduce the overall expense of high-quality representation by avoiding litigation costs. 

  • The opportunity to engage in creative problem-solving to craft a resolution that most nearly meets the needs of both parties. 

  • Finally, the ability to narrow issues that may ultimately be tried. 

Mediation intake forms are available for download and use. 

What are the costs of Early Neutral Evaluation and Mediation?

The evaluators may charge their usual hourly rate for services rendered.  Clients whose attorneys are members of the Divorce Cooperation Institute will receive a twenty percent discount off the final bill for services rendered by the evaluator. 

Who are the Divorce Cooperation Institute
Early Neutral Evaluation Evaluators and Mediators?

Those members of the Divorce Cooperation Institute who have practiced primarily in the field of family law and who have at least fifteen years of experience. Check the individual member listings to find an evaluator. 



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