News Item
Family Court Early Evaluation Program Honored For Innovation, Effectiveness

Posted: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Fourth Judicial District Family Court’s Early Neutral Evaluation Program was selected from more than 600 applicants competing for a prestigious Innovations in Government Award from the Ash Institute For Democratic Governance at the John. F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) process pairs parties to child custody disputes with skilled teams of evaluators early in the case to reduce conflicts and improve the prospects for a settlement acceptable to both parties.  Settlement rates have exceeded 70 percent in the more than 2,300 child custody and parenting time cases since the program began in 2002. ENE teams typically spend less than six hours per case, compared to an average of 45 hours for traditional evaluations.

“The Hennepin County Court Early Evaluation Program is becoming a best practice for family cases throughout Minnesota,”  said Hennepin Family Court Presiding Tanja Manrique.  “Courts in Duluth, Anoka, St. Paul, Grand Rapids, Stillwater and a dozen counties in southern Minnesota are implementing the model and tailoring it to serve local needs.”