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Q: What is ENA?
A: ENA or Early Neutral Assessment is a process in which a couple who is divorcing can work with a team of specialists to work through the issues of their case, and hopefully avoid the costs of litigation.
Q: How does ENA work?
A: Divorcing parties meet with a team of two evaluators, typically an attorney and a therapist or mental health specialist who have had no prior involvement with the particular case. Evaluation teams are comprised of one man and one woman to blunt any gender bias. The evaluators then provide their expert assessment of the case’s likely outcome if it were to proceed to a hearing. The team then provides settlement suggestions and assists in mediating a settlement, if needed.
Q: When should I start the ENA process?
A: ENA should be started as soon as possible. Once a case has truly gotten going, it may be too late to start ENA. This initial meeting takes place within the first 60 days that a case is at issue. A joint session is scheduled with the team, the parties, and their attorneys where each party is able to express their concerns, frustrations, feelings, and needs.
Q: Why should I consider ENA?
A: Every component of the process is designed to move the parties towards resolution, increasing the likelihood of early settlements and giving the parties the chance to freely discuss – in a safe environment – some of the emotions that can send divorce proceedings off the rails in a traditional approach.
Q: What is the difference between ENA and mediation?
A: The biggest difference between mediation and ENA is the insight, specific recommendations and settlement suggestions that are provided to the parties in order to help them reach resolution.
Q: What does ENA cost?
A: Because cost is always a concern in divorce, the question often asked is “how much does this advice cost?” Rates vary from evaluator to evaluator – some charge hourly, some charge a set fee, some even offer reduced rates depending on a client’s income. Each county should be able to offer a list of professionals who provide ENA services to better define costs. It is important to note that if an ENA evaluator’s recommendations are followed, the result is less time in court, lower attorney fees, and a reduced chance of litigation – which is a significant money saver.
Q: Is ENA a good option in my case?
A: For all its benefits, ENA is not appropriate for every case, and the personal circumstances of each case must be weighed. It may not be beneficial in a case that involves mental, physical, or emotional abuse. But for couples hoping to reduce the emotional toll of divorce or short-circuit potential litigation, ENA is an alternative – and a viable one, at that – to traditional approaches.
Q: What is Collaborative Divorce?
A: In a collaborative divorce, each party retains and attorney who is trained in collaborative law who will represent them throughout the process. This may sound just like a regular divorce, but in collaborative divorce, the parties and their attorneys agree to work together to come to agreement without resorting to the court system. If one party decides they would like to go to court about the issues, or does not abide by the rules of a collaborative process, then both attorneys must withdraw from the matter and the parties will then have to seek alternative representation. The point of collaborative divorce is to problem-solve to create and find solutions that will help the parties and their children move forward from their divorce in the best way possible.
Q: Do all family law attorneys practice collaborative law?
A: No. If you would like to try collaborative divorce, ask your attorney if they are familiar with the process, and have experience with it. Because collaborative practitioners involve other professionals in the collaborative team, such as financial professionals, or divorce coaches, you need to an attorney who has contacts in these fields and can help you assemble the best team for your situation. Also, as collaborative divorce is a relatively rare practice, many attorneys will not be familiar with it.
Q: How much does Collaborative Divorce Cost?
A: The cost of a collaborative divorce depends largely on each situation. Some parties may have few disagreements or issues to resolve, and the collaborative process may go smoothly, but for those with complex financial situations, the collaborative process may be a little more expensive. However, generally, one of the upsides of collaborative divorce is that it is generally less expensive than the traditional litigation approach. If parties are incredibly at odds regarding their situation, then collaborative divorce is likely not an option, but for those who would like an opportunity to work together to dissolve their marriage in as smooth a way as possible, collaborative divorce can often save money on attorney fees. Because the process of collaborative law uses the appropriate professional for each task in the process, it is usually a cost effective approach. It is cost effective in both the short term for reaching an initial agreement, and in the long term, because the agreement that is reached is very well thought out and usually more acceptable to each party, there is less of a likelihood of future litigation on the issues, which can be costly.
Glen B. Goldman
Emily T. Roberts
Douglas A. Thomas