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What Is Early Neutral Assessment and When Is It a Good Option?

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Recently, we have been receiving more and more questions about early neutral assessment (also known as early neutral evaluation). What is it? How much does it cost? And””more importantly””is it the right choice for me? Though early neutral assessment (ENA) is a viable and often highly beneficial alternative to divorce, it is not as well-known, and it is not the right choice for every couple.

So who is ENA best for?

Well, to decide that, a bit of explanation may help. ENA is the process in which a divorcing couple meets with an unbiased team of evaluators, usually an attorney and a therapist, one of each gender. Through a series of meetings, each half of the couple is given the opportunity to voice his or her concerns and feelings. The evaluators then make an assessment of the situation and return to the couple with suggestions on likely outcomes if the case were to go to court or possible alternatives to court, such as mediation.

The benefit that ENA provides over mediation is that with ENA, there are two experts on hand to provide suggestions and insights to the divorcing couple. The evaluators are not just listening to each party’s feelings. They’re also evaluating the situation and making recommendations based on the couple’s specific needs. Everything in the ENA process is designed to aid in a mutually beneficial resolution.

Also, by definition, ENA happens early in the process””before steps are taken towards a court-based divorce or even mediation. The benefits of ENA are many, including protecting children from the stress and negativity””sometimes even outright hostility””of divorce. It can help keep your children from getting in the middle of your problems. It can also speed up the process and reduce the expense and conflict of litigation.

So this all sounds great, right? If it’s cheaper and smoother, ENA should be a viable option for just about anyone!

Except that it’s not for everyone. Situations in which ENA may not be appropriate include:

  • A couple who is in an abusive relationship, whether that means mental, physical, or emotional abuse from either party, especially if children are involved. These cases may require court-appointed professionals through the traditional divorce process.
  • A couple in which one or both parties are more interested in fighting for everything rather than resolving their marriage quickly. Where there are lots of hurt feelings and anger, ENA may not be a viable solution.

Conclusion

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. In most cases, if an ENA evaluator’s recommendations are followed, the couple will likely benefit from a shorter divorce process and less expense.