Early Neutral Evaluation

Sometimes called ‘Private FDR’, Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) are becoming an increasingly popular tool for resolving differences between couples and families after separation.

Participants appoint a senior specialist to act, and who will give a professional opinion about the likely outcome to a case. That person may be a solicitor, barrister, retired or part time judge. No additional qualification is required. The ENE takes place at a time and place convenient to the parties, and time is set aside to maximise the prospects of settlement, for negotiations to take place.

With an ENE, the specialist adjudicator will have copies of your full and frank financial disclosure and other details such as the chronology, the opinions that you have both taken and the desired outcomes for you both. In cases involving children it might also include other types of document, such as details about schools or medical information.

What is the difference between an ENE and other forms of non-court solutions?

An ENE is something of a cross between mediation and formal advice being given at the same time. You will get a written or oral indication of what you could expect to achieve in court, rather than a formal award which you might get in Arbitration. ENEs are privileged and confidential, and all parties including the evaluator formally sign an agreement setting out what they have been asked to do. Your ‘judge’ will be impartial and entirely neutral.

What are the advantages?

The family court system is full, and delays are commonplace. It can take months and sometimes years for a complex case to be finalised, and even in more simple cases it is around 12-18 months from start to finish in a fully contested case.

Your ENE can be set up within a matter of weeks. You can use it to cover an entire case, or to deal with more discreet and specific issues as they arise. It provides a far sounder starting point for negotiations, and often forms the basis for Heads of Agreement, which are often then lodged with the court for approval.

In terms of costs, it will be more cost effective to prepare for an ENE than for the first stages of the formal court process. Cases can be dealt with on paper, or with face to face hearings and oral submissions. You can take a solicitor or barrister with you, or attend on your own, and you can choose the location. Your ‘judge’ can be as senior or junior as is appropriate for your circumstances, and the costs will be dependent upon that, so you remain in control of the overall budget. Contrast that to the court application, where you will get whichever judge is sitting on the day, in a court that may not be local to you.


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