MINNESOTA DIvorce and the Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC)
Understanding the terms and the process in your divorce can be critical. Here we describe the ICMC hearing in Minnesota.
Lawyers and AcronymsAs lawyers, we love our acronyms. In a divorce, you may be bombarded by many. You may hear about the ICMC (Initial Case Management Conference), the ENE (Early Neutral Evaluation, the FENE (Financial Early Neutral Evaluation), the SENE (Social Early Neutral Evaluation). You may discuss appointments of PC's (Parenting Consultants) or PTE (Parenting Time Expeditors). You may even hear that your case may be resolved with a MTA (Marital Termination Agreement) which leads to the entry of a J& D (Judgment and Decree). The kegal terms used can be overwhelming and, as a result you should always consult with experienced legal counsel and have them explain fully the terms used.
Early Neutral Evaluative Process (ENE)The purpose of this article is to discuss the ICMC (Initial Case Management Conference). Most courts in Minnesota are following a model called Early Case Management. The system was developed based on the belief that families are much better off, financially and emotionally, if they are able to resolve matters related to their children and their finances early in their case. We often hear that more than 80% of all cases are settled in ENE's (Early Neutral Evaluations), though, I must confess, I am not sure where those figures are derived. Certainly, likely any other part of negotiation in divorce, it takes two to tango. In other words, each party (and to some extent their counsel) must be engaged in the process and dedicated to resolving the issue without it deteriorating into a courtroom firefight. I understand that for many people, those are disheartening words because they view the other party as "unreasonable." However, I have found that with good attorneys and trained evaluators/neutrals, parties may reach agreements even in cases where that did not seem possible.
Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC) PurposeThe first hearing that occurs after filing a divorce, legal separation or custody action, is the Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC). This hearing is usually scheduled within thirty (30) days of the initial filing. I like to describe this initial hearing as a "meet and greet." It is a chance for you to meet your Judge and your Judge to make an introduction to the parties. The purpose is to promote communication between the parties, establish timelines and procedures for proceeding forward with the case including possible dispute resolution procedures. Parties will be sent a Confidential Data Form. This form needs to be filled out and returned to the court prior to the scheduled date. The purpose of the data sheet is to provide a short summary of your case to the judge.
Initial Case Management (ICMC) ProcessAt the ICMC a court can issue no orders without consent of the parties. If there are agreements on any issues, those can be memorialized as part of your case record. In most instances, the judge will talk with the parties and their counsel about what the issues and concerns that are impeding or stopping you as parents from coming to an agreement. The judge will discuss with you various options including possible ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) options. From hat hearing, the parties will proceed on their path as agreed upon, either through dispute resolution processes or through evaluative and litigation processes. You should always discuss the relative merits of each process with your attorney.