Family Law

Mediation is required in most Family Law matters, especially in initial divorce proceedings. Mediation is a confidential process that involves the parties working together with a neutral professional to exchange information and ideas for resolving as many issues as possible. Mediation is usually face-to-face, but does not have to be. A mediator does not make decisions for you but helps you understand the issues and provides information so that you can reach decisions mutually with your spouse. If mediation doesn’t accomplish a complete mutual agreement, it often provides for agreement on many issues and thus focuses the parties’ and the court’s attention on these unresolved issues and is, usually, faster and less expensive.

SENE – Social Early Neutral Evaluation

The high emotions and early confusion in a divorce often find custody, parenting time and other child-related issues as the primary source of disagreement and friction between the parties. SENE is a three-hour process that allows each party to express his or her expectations regarding the children’s living arrangements and why those arrangements are best for the children. The parties and their lawyer, if they have one, meet with two evaluators, one female, one male, and discuss the children and each parent’s proposed living arrangement and proposed time with the other parent. Evaluators are experienced family law attorneys, child psychologists or social workers. The evaluators typically question each parent; and each parent has an opportunity to respond to the proposal of the other parent. During a recess the evaluators discuss the information obtained and when the parties are recalled, the evaluators give their non-binding opinion, which does not have to be unanimous, as to what the court would most likely do if presented with the same information, and why. If an agreement is reached by the parties, whether whole or partial, it is prepared and sent to the court for an enforceable order. If there is no agreement on certain issues, or on all issues, the court is only informed that no agreement was reached and no reason is given for the non-agreement.

FENE – Financial Early Neutral Evaluation

Because the dissolution process is new, confusing and often begins with high emotions, the parties frequently have unrealistic expectations of the final result. FENE is a three-hour meeting of the parties, their attorneys, if they have one, and an experienced family law attorney or CPA to review the parties’ financial assets and liabilities. The parties provide financial information to the evaluator, each party is given an opportunity to state what he or she believes is fair as far as support and asset division, an attempt is made to see if there can be an early agreement, partial or whole, and if a full agreement is not made, the evaluator states his or her non-binding opinion on what the court is most likely to do if it had the same information. If there is no agreement reached, the evaluator only informs the court that there is no agreement between the parties. No other information or reason is given to the court. If a partial agreement is reached, that agreement can be sent to the court as an enforceable order.