When a case is filed in court, an early neutral evaluation may take place. This is when the case is referred to an expert, typically an attorney, who then provides their opinion on the dispute in a fair, unbiased manner.

During this process, the attorney looks at either submitted, written content or talks to the other parties directly. That expert then decides what each side’s weaknesses and strengths are, assessing the likely outcome if they were to go to trial. This early neutral evaluation can be important for some cases, since it helps both parties decide if going to trial is going to end in the way they expect.

Early neutral evaluation is part of the dispute resolution process

Early neutral evaluation is part of the dispute resolution process and is aimed at couples who aren’t sure if they want to go to trial or if a settlement is a better option. Those who are getting ready to go to trial might use the ENE to decide if the trial will go in their favor or work out better for the opposite party. If the ENE shows that your preferred outcome is unlikely, for instance, then you may be more likely to negotiate with the other party for a settlement.

Early neutral evaluation is just one kind of dispute resolution process and is sometimes combined with others. For instance, if you go through mediation and have a tentative settlement, you might want to file a case with the ENE to decide if the settlement you and your spouse have come to an agreement on is really the best option for you.

Is early neutral evaluation the same as a mini-trial?

ENE is similar to a mini-trial, but it is not the same. In ENE, both parties may not need to be present, and only a single third party reviews the documents to come up with a determination about the projected outcome. With a mini-trial, each attorney represents their own party and states their cases to a neutral advisor and other representatives. At the end, the representatives, in this case, likely you and your spouse, would attempt to settle the dispute. If you can’t, then the neutral advisor can issue a non-binding opinion describing what the likely outcome would be in court.

Mini-trials tend to be used for businesses more than for divorce clients, but they are another option in Ohio that you can speak with your attorney about.