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Professionals who work in family law have an awful tendency to rely on acronyms. They use them so frequently that sometimes they forget that people who do not work in family law are probably not familiar with these acronyms and then wonder why their client has difficulty following their own case. It doesn’t need to be that way.

Below are a handful of the most commonly used acronyms in family law and brief explanations of them.

  • ICMC

    Initial Case Management Conference. An ICMC is a type of hearing that takes place at the start of a new family law case. At the ICMC, the judge will become familiar with the issues in your case, will let you know about any special preferences the judge has about how cases should go forward, and will push the parties toward attempted some form of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or an ENE process (see below). Not all counties currently use the ICMC process; some only use the process for divorces unless one is requested in another type of case.

  • ENE

    Early Neutral Evaluation. The ENE program is a form of alternative dispute resolution employed by some counties. The purpose of the program is to get parties to try to mediate their family law disputes early on in the case before parties become entrenched in their positions. ENEs come in two varieties – SENEs and FENEs. “SENE” stands for “Social Early Neutral Evaluation.”

    • SENEs focus on the so-called “social” issues in a family law case, such as custody and parenting time. SENEs are usually conducted by a team of two evaluators, a man and a woman.
    • “FENE” stands for “Financial Early Neutral Evaluation”. FENEs focus on the “financial” issues in a case, such as the division of property, spousal maintenance, and child support. There is usually only one FENE evaluator.

    The advantages of ENEs over traditional mediation are twofold. First, the evaluators will often provide services at a reduced rate. Second, the evaluators will provide a recommendation to the parties of how they think a judge will view the case. This evaluative aspect of the ENE process helps to bring people closer to a resolution, and helps move parties off of unreasonable positions that obstruct settlement.

  • ROP

    Recognition of Parentage. An ROP (pronounced either “rope” or “r-o-p”) is a document that is used to indicate the paternity of a child when the child’s mother is unmarried at the time of birth. An ROP must be signed by both parents. Often, an ROP is signed right at the hospital when the child is born. An ROP adjudicates the paternity of the signing father, but does not establish any custody or parenting time rights for the father – the mother retains sole legal and sole physical custody of the child unless and until the father files an action for custody and parenting time.

    For more information on ROPs, see Minnesota Statute Section 257.75.

The disconnect between attorneys and those they are meant to help has long troubled me. No one who comes into my office should walk out of it looking dazed at all the information thrown at them. I make it a point to ensure that you have both understanding of and input on how your case proceeds. Please, contact my office today to schedule your free consultation. You can call us at 651-647-0087 or reach out via our online contact form. I look forward to hearing from you.

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