A popular process used to foster settlement for child-related issues is Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE). More information on SENE can be found here. The process uses evaluators that hear a “snapshot” of your life in regards to the children. At the end of the process, the evaluators will give you their opinion on how they think a judge would rule on the issues of parenting time and custody. Many people ask how to prepare for this process.
Bring a Picture of the Children
It is helpful for the evaluators to see a picture of children. Evaluators often want to see who they are talking about during the process.
Understand the Best Interests of the Children
You may know what is best for your children. However, the law has specific factors that must be considered when a Court will make a determination on parenting time and custody. The evaluators, while they may not go over the factors with you, will evaluate your case in the context of those factors. The factors are listed here. It helps to create a chart using the factors, listing what you believe is important under each factor. This will help you understand what the evaluators will find important in your case.
Create an Outline
After you’ve critically thought about the best interest factors above, it helps to then create an outline of the points that you want to bring up. This will ensure you do not forget anything and an outline will make it easier for the evaluators to understand your side of the story. It is not helpful to create a script that you will read. The process is meant to be a conversation and not a time to argue.
Stick to the Children
It is far too easy to get caught up in the aspects that have led to the divorce. Sometimes what led to the divorce is important to discuss in SENE (e.g., parents alcoholism). However, you don’t want to focus on the trivial aspects of the relationship (e.g., the other parent spends too much money). If you focus on anything other than what is important to the children, it may cause the evaluators to lose focus on what is important and relevant to your case. This is why it is helpful to create an outline (see above).
Talk to the Evaluators
A divorce is stressful and an emotional process. The high tensions make it easy to want to argue with the other parent in the SENE process. Do not talk to the other parent. It becomes too easy to turn the process from a discussion to an argument when you direct what you are saying at the other parent. Talk directly to the evaluators. This also aids in stressing the importance of what you are saying.
Understand What the Recommendation Means
As stated above, the evaluators will provide a recommendation. You are not forced to agree with the evaluators’ assessment. Rather, you can walk away from the process at any time. If you do agree with the evaluators’ assessment, you can sign an agreement that day with the other party, assuming the other party agrees too. This would resolve any issues that are memorialized in the agreement. However, agreeing to certain terms at the conclusion of a SENE can affect your rights and children long-term. This is why it is important to understand the ramifications of any agreements you may make in SENE.
If you have any questions regarding a Social Early Neutral Evaluation or preparing for a Social Early Neutral Evaluation, please call me today at 651-647-0087 or reach out via our online contact form to set up your free consultation.