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Early Case Management Program (ECM)

Early Case Management (ECM)

The fair and efficient administration of justice requires that all cases in family court receive timely attention. Olmsted County, in an effort to provide early judicial intervention in contested cases, established an Early Case Management program in August 2011.  Within three weeks of case filing, the parties and their attorneys meet with a judge for an ICMC.  At the ICMC, the judge encourages the parties to focus on resolving and narrowing the contested issues that are barriers to settlement.

Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC)

Engaging the parties in communication that focuses their efforts on achieving resolution at the early stages of their case is important and requires immediate judicial intervention.

The purpose of the ICMC is to:
Establish the court's control of the progress of the case;
Provide early intervention by the court;
Offer Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes;
Establish discovery limitations and deadlines;
Discuss settlement progress and opportunities for settlement; and,
Assign a date for future conferences, if needed.

Within three weeks of initial filing, the parties appear before the court for an ICMC. Parties are required to complete an ICMC data sheet and return it to the court prior to the scheduled conference. This conference is mandatory. If a party is represented by an attorney, his or her attorney must attend.  At the ICMC, all parties involved meet with a judge who speaks with them about the issues and concerns that may be affecting their ability to move forward with reaching agreement. The judge will discuss various processes available to assist the parties in reaching an efficient and meaningful resolution of their case.

Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE)

Early Neutral Evaluation is a confidential, voluntary, high-quality evaluative process designed to facilitate prompt dispute resolution on custody, parenting time, and financial matters with the assistance of experienced professionals. At the ENE Session, feedback is provided to parties and their attorneys based on case presentations and a limited amount of information gathered at the session. The ENE process is typically completed within three weeks for Social ENEs (SENE) and two months for Financial ENEs (FENE).

1. At the ICMC, a judge may refer the parties and their attorneys to ENE.  Social ENE addresses custody and parenting time issues.  Financial ENE addresses child support, spousal maintenance, property, debt, and other financial issues.

a. For SENE, there are two neutral evaluators assigned to the case; one male evaluator and one female evaluator.

b. For FENE, there is one neutral evaluator assigned to the case.

2. The cost for participating in ENE varies based on the parties’ combined income.  The court maintains a list of qualified evaluators who have agreed to accept ENE appointments based on a fee schedule, available on the Olmsted County website. 

3. Attorneys and parties meet with the ENE evaluator(s) within 7-21 days of the ICMC.  Each party presents the important issues in the case to the evaluator(s). Unless it is necessary to gather additional information, the evaluator(s) provides immediate feedback about each party’s case. Settlement possibilities are discussed and areas that require further scrutiny are identified by the evaluator(s).

4. If deemed necessary, The ENE evaluator(s) may gather additional information, interview the parties’ child(ren), or gather limited collateral data.

5. The attorneys and parties may need more than one session to complete the ENE process. Settlement options for full and partial agreements are discussed. If the case does not settle, the evaluator(s) identify critical issues that may need additional study.

6. If a full or partial settlement is reached, the attorneys prepare a stipulation and order, which is then submitted to the court for a judge’s signature.  If an agreement is not reached, the evaluators notify the judge that the case did not settle and a scheduling order is then issued by the court.

7. ENE is a confidential process and as such, the ENE evaluator(s) may not be called to testify against either party about any aspect of the ENE process. Evaluators, however, notify the court of the outcome of the case, i.e. settlement or no settlement.  Attorneys and pro se parties are forbidden to discuss the ENE process or recommendations of the evaluators with the court. Further information regarding ENE confidentiality can be found on the FENE Program Description and SENE Program Description. 

ECM Forms

Listed below are forms that are designed to assist you in becoming more familiar with the Olmsted County Early Case Management Program.  The Initial Case Conference Data Sheet is a form that must be completed, filed, and served at least two (2) business days before your scheduled ICMC.  The other forms contain more detailed information about the ECM program. 

SENE Program Description

SENE Fee Schedules

FENE Program Description

FENE Fee Schedules

Confidential ICMC Data Sheet

ECM Flow Chart

Supreme Court Order & Recommended Guidelines

ADR Order

Child Custody Class Order