ENE is a process by which the parties to a dispute agree to instruct a neutral professional/expert to provide them with an evaluation of their respective positions on the whole of the dispute, or some element or elements of it, before they are actually in a position to proceed to a final resolution.

In family disputes, for example, it could be used to give early direction on a single point, such as whether a pensions report will be needed, or whether a particular asset will be included in a settlement. It can also provide an early view on the range in which overall settlement will be reached. You can use this to help decide where to begin negotiating with each other.

ENE can therefore take a necessary preliminary decision or set the framework within which negotiations can take place.

I need help but I'm not ready for arbitration

If you know the relevant financial information for you and your ex, it may be that you want to discuss settlement but don't know what sort of arrangements a court would approve. Perhaps the two of you disagree in a big way about what is reasonable. Perhaps you disagree over one particular important point and need some guidance as to which of you is correct. This is the sort of problem Early Neutral Evaluation is designed to help with.

What are the benefits?

All too often, early negotiations can break down where at least one party is unrealistic as to the settlement range or where a specific point cannot be agreed. As a result, Court proceedings have to be issued to resolve what is actually a preliminary issue or because negotiations cannot take place because the two of you are just too far apart. The entire Form E and FDA documents protocol has to be implemented, at the parties' not inconsiderable expense, and a Court timetable imposed, where it is in the main part not needed.

ENE offers a quick and inexpensive alternative. If there is a dispute as to what information needs to be disclosed or obtained to reach an informed negotiation, a family law arbitrator can take that decision and enable the parties to continue seeking their own solution to their own financial future. If one party is simply not recognising the realities of where a court would pitch an order, ENE can provide a non partisan opinion to shift the dynamics of the engagement.

Who should be appointed?

Given that either side could seek an external view from counsel, what can ENE bring to the mix above that? ENE is provided by someone who owes no duty to either party. Their input is genuinely objective. Both parties pay the piper, so neither can call the tune.

NFAS uses only part time judges as arbitrators, in other words, only those who actually have the responsibility of taking exactly the decisions you or your clients are faced with. Unlike many judges, however, they are drawn solely from professionals with years of experience of family finance litigation. You cannot guarantee that your preferred view will prevail, but you can be assured that the position will be considered by someone with the necessary expertise.

What does it cost?

Unsurprisingly, less than a full blooded arbitration, typically. Obviously it depends what the extent of the issue is, but a fixed price will be given, usually a third or even 50% lower than an equivalent arbitration. Prices start at as little as £400, usually shared between the two of you. Avoiding the Court issue fee can pay the majority of this!

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