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Dakota County Early Neutral Evaluation

An efficient, compassionate and effective way to work through the dissolution process

What is Early Neutral Evaluation or ENE?


This program connects divorcing parents with judges and neutral evaluators early in the court process to provide the opportunity to resolve issues surrounding their dissolution.  Parties can choose to participate in a Financial ENE (“FENE”) to resolve their financial disputes, a custody and parenting time (Social ENE or “SENE”) to resolve their disputes regarding their children, or both.

What are the benefits of ENE?


Statistics show that parties who participate in ENE have many benefits:

  • Focus is kept on the children if children are involved
  • Working through issues they are more satisfied with the final decision
  • Parties will spend less time in court
  • Dramatically reduces the amount of time to complete the dissolution

How does the process work?


When papers are filed with the court, the parties (or their attorneys) will receive a notice to attend an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC) where the process of ENE will be discussed to see if the parties wish to proceed.  This conference will be set about 2 weeks from the case being opened with the court.

What happens at the ICMC?


The parties will hear options about different ways their divorce can proceed, either through the traditional litigation and trials or through ENE.  If the parties choose to use the ENE process they will select neutrals to help them resolve the issues in their dissolution.  If the parties choose to litigate the case will be set on for a pre trial, and additional parenting classes (if the case involves children) and mediation may be required.

What do I need to bring to the initial conference (ICMC)?


You will receive a form from the court with information to bring to the first meeting.  This will assist the judge and the parties in determining if ENE is appropriate for your case.  It will also allow the court to determine what issues the party may need to work through and what the cost will be.

Who are the Neutrals?


For cases involving custody or parenting matters, the parties may choose from a list of neutrals who are either a male-female team or a single evaluator.  The neutrals are experienced in family court.  For cases involving financial issues, the neutrals are experienced family law attorneys or accountants.  The neutrals will evaluate the case and encourage parties to find common ground.

What is the cost?


At the time of the first Conference (ICMC) the cost will be determined based upon the party’s income (if  a party does not have an attorney) or the rate charged by the party’s attorney if the party is represented.

Do I need an attorney?


You are not required to have an attorney for the ENE process.  As with any legal situation you may want to consult with an attorney for legal advice.  Please note: the court staff is limited to helping with procedures and cannot give you legal advice.

Other Resources:


Judicial Branch’s web site:



Self Help Center web site:



Court Forms web site: