Alternative Dispute Resolution

Minneapolis, MN family law attorney Laura Sahr Schmit talks about alternative dispute resolution.

Contact Laura Sahr Schmit

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (612) 335-4292


ADR stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution, and the idea behind it is that parties are always better off reaching their own self-determination in a case, as opposed to having a judge or some third party decide what’s going to happen in the family situation. So, the courts now require you to go through some sort of Alternative Dispute Resolution, unless there’s really an extreme domestic abuse. And even then, they might require that you’re in separate rooms. There’s protections that are built in place. But the two main ones would be the ENE process – Early Neutral Evaluation.

And, there, we can either go to do the Social Early Neutral Evaluation, where we talk about the kids and what each parent feels they’ve done to contribute to the raising of the children, and what they would like to see moving forward for parenting time and custody. And then the evaluators will give an opinion. And there’s usually a male and female evaluator, if it’s a male and female mom and dad. And they’ll give the recommendation, and, from there, the attorneys and the clients can negotiate what would be an appropriate settlement. And if they can’t settle it, then that’s fine. You just move to the next step, which would be trying to get a parenting time evaluation or a custody evaluation.

The other ENE – or Early Neutral Evaluation – is a Financial Early Neutral Evaluation. And, for that, we go to one individual. And that person is helping the family divide the assets, determine spousal maintenance – if that’s an issue – help determine child support. And that’s helpful because that person gathers the financial information and puts it all on a spreadsheet, so everybody gets on the same page in terms of what the assets and liabilities are. And that, too, if we’re not able to resolve it at that point, we can move on to a trial situation. But, often times, we’re able to either narrow the issues or get things resolved.

And then the third kind of ADR we see a lot is mediation. And mediation is where the parties and their attorneys will go to an individual. And, again, they have to go in realizing that to settle, they’re going to need to compromise. If you go into it saying, “It’s my way or the highway,” it’s never going to get resolved. So, that’s also very effective. And I think any of those are preferable to going to trial, because then you lose all control, as the individual, for self-determination. And fees can get out of control.