Social Early Neutral Evaluation SENE or Custody and Parenting Time Evaluation CPENE (the name varies depending on which county you are participating in) is a form of evaluative alternative dispute resolution where you are given a neutral opinion of the strengths and weaknesses of your case. SENE/CPENE is available in many counties throughout Minnesota. The process is usually commenced at the beginning of a divorce or custody case. The intent is to get parties talking about settlement of their case at the beginning of the process before people get entrenched in their positions. However, SENE/CPENE can be effective at reaching a resolution at any point during the case.
The parties participate in the process with their attorneys present. Two evaluators, a male and female are selected or assigned (depending on which county you are participating in) to the case. You should plan to spend at least three hours at the SENE/CPENE. The process begins with the evaluators explaining the confidentiality requirements and the way that the evaluation will be conducted. The person who is the Petitioner in the court action will begin by telling the evaluators what they are seeking for custody and parenting time and why they believe their proposal is in the best interests of the children. The evaluators and the Petitioner’s attorney may ask the Petitioner questions through out their presentation, but the Respondent’s attorney is not permitted to ask any questions of the Petitioner. Following the Petitioner’s presentation, the Respondent is asked to tell the evaluator what they are seeking for custody and parenting time. The challenge for the Respondent is to not be tempted to simply respond to the Petitioner’s presentation. Again, the Respondent’s attorney and the evaluators will be allowed to ask the Respondent questions. Next the evaluators allow each side one turn at rebuttal.
After all presentations are made to the evaluators, they will leave the room and discuss their impressions of the case. This usually takes 15 to 20 minutes. The evaluators then reconvene the session and give you feedback regarding what they think the likely outcome of the case will be. At this point you can ask the evaluators questions about their recommendations and get any necessary clarification.
Following the receipt of the recommendations, you will then have the opportunity to discuss with your attorney privately your thoughts about what has been recommended. You have three options at this point. You can agree with the recommendations. You can agree with some of the recommendations and propose changes to some portions. Finally, you can disagree completely and walk away from the discussions.
After you have spoken with your attorney you again reconvene with the group and discuss each parties position regarding the recommendations. At this point, usually you begin negotiating the terms of the settlement agreement. Sometimes there will be a full agreement on all issues. Other times, there may simply be a temporary agreement or a partial agreement.
Having a skilled attorney represent you through the SENE/CPENE process is crucial. Our attorneys have represented numerous clients throughout the SENE/CPENE process. They know how the process works and how to effectively prepare you and represent you through the process. Call our office for a family law consultation today.