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Dissolution of Marriage Proceedings in Minnesota – The Initial Case Management Conference

Dissolution of Marriage Proceedings in Minnesota – Introduction

An Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC) is the first-time parties meet in court with the Judicial Officer assigned to their case. The ICMC is informal and is usually scheduled within three weeks of filing a divorce (dissolution) or custody case. The parties (and their attorneys, if represented) meet with the assigned judicial officer, and they identify the main issues in the case, things the parties agree to and disagree on, and the next steps to finish the case. The parties may decide to work on settling the issues, but often they leave the ICMC with plans to participate in either a Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE) or a Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE) or both. Minnesota Judicial Branch – Hennepin County District Court (mncourts.gov)

Early Case Management/Early Neutral Evaluation

Early Case Management (ECM) is the early involvement of a judicial officer in dissolution and custody cases with the purpose of aiding in the case’s earlier resolution.  Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) is a confidential, voluntary, evaluative process designed to facilitate prompt dispute resolution in custody, parenting time (visitation), and financial matters. The program offers the evaluative impressions of experienced professionals to parties engaged in custody, parenting time, and financial disputes. Feedback is provided to parties and their attorneys based on case presentations and a limited amount of information gathering. The ENE process is typically completed within one month. A party may choose to end the ENE session at any time. Minnesota Judicial Branch – Minnesota Judicial Branch 

ENE is a confidential, settlement-oriented, accelerated alternative dispute resolution process that moves families through court as quickly, fairly and inexpensively as possible. SENEs address custody and parenting time issues, and FENEs address financial issues. An SENE involves a two-person male/female team who meets with the parties and their attorneys, if represented. Each party makes a brief presentation of his or her position, responds briefly to the other’s presentation and answers questions from the evaluator(s). If there is a team of evaluator(s), they confer privately about their impressions. Ultimately, the evaluator(s) provides feedback to the parties about the likely recommendations they would receive if they participated in a full custody and parenting time evaluation, as well as their opinion about viable settlement options. Attorneys may then consult privately with their clients and the full group reconvenes and attempts to negotiate a settlement. An FENE involves only one evaluator, male or female, and follows the same process as a SENE. ENE processes are designed to be completed within 30 to 60 days of the date the ICMC is held. While parties are participating in these processes, judicial time is made more available to handle emergency, enforcement and post-decree matters, as well as matters that are not suited for ENE. Minnesota Judicial Branch Policy 

While these options may not be the best approach for all dissolution of marriage proceedings they are definitely worthwhile of consideration in every case. In addition to apprising the parties of the options available for settlement they also provide the parties a realistic understanding of the process and potential strengths and weaknesses in their positions. Each case will present a unique set of circumstances that will need to be considered by the parties when deciding whether to proceed with any of the options offered at the ICMC. At Walker Law Professional Corporation we can provide you with sound legal advice to ensure that you make the correct decisions.

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Sam Walker

Sam Walker

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