Judy Sherwood, LLC 
MA, LMFT, MBA

Alternative Dispute Resolution 
Qualified Neutral, Minnesota Supreme Court Rule 114


Social Early Neutral Evaluations (SENE)

SENE is a conflict resolution/ADR process that requires a Court Order.  Evaluators are listed on the Minnesota Judicial Branch ADR Roster, and agreed upon by counsel and parties prior to appointment.


The goal of a Social Early Neutral Evaluation is to provide information that will keep parents in charge of family and child related decisions, and assist parents and their attorneys reach settlement related to custody and parenting time issues.  By design, an SENE is conducted by a gender balanced team of two professionals:  one male, one female.  One of the evaluators shall be a family law attorney, and the other evaluator shall be an mental health professional experienced in court-related custody and parenting time matters.    The purpose is to provide feedback about court processes and potential outcomes, including recommendations for parenting time arrangements based on child development and individual circumstances for each family.


The process consists of: 


INTERVIEWS –  a Social Early Neutral Evaluation generally includes the following interviews: 


Both parents together - 2-3 hours   

Each parent separately - 1 hours (total 2 hours)

Child(ren) - 1-2 hours (optional)


If there is an Order for Protection (OFP), No Contact Order (NCO), or Harassment Restraining Order (HRO), parties and their attorneys will meet in separate rooms for the SENE.  


REPORT / REVIEW OF FINDINGS - The goal of a Social Early Neutral Evaluation is to provide preliminary recommendations that are based on the data gathered.   The evaluators will present a verbal report, including observations, impressions and recommendations.  These recommendations hopefully will serve as a basis for settlement negotiations between the parents and/or the attorneys. 


At the conclusion of the data gathering processes, evaluators meet with the attorneys and the parties to discuss recommendations and work with parties to address issues and formulate as many agreements as the parties are comfortable making.  


IMPASSE - If the process does not result in agreement, the parties may pursue any of the following options:


             Mediation

             Full custody evaluation completed by county court services

             Private custody evaluation completed by a different evaluator

             Return to the Court


The SENE process is confidential by statute.  Therefore, the data gathered, notes from interviews, report and recommendations are NOT subject to discovery in the legal process.