Early Neutral Evaluation vs. Mediation: What’s the difference?

Written by William Hogg - 22.10.20

We treat our clients as individuals; we value their needs, their time and their ideal outcomes. In doing this we offer a range of choices when it comes to settling your matters out of court. Here, we break down the differences between mediation, and the less well-known option of early neutral evaluation ('ENE').

Divorce and family separations can be stressful, and at Laurus we want to make the transition to new family arrangements as easy and as positive as possible. That's why we handpick our approach for each client to suit them. There are a lot of options available, and each one has its various advantages depending on your situation.


You may have heard of mediation. It’s a common way to reach an agreement in family issues, such as in a separation, or child arrangements – for good reason. According to the Ministry of Justice, almost 7 in 10 family law cases reach an agreement through mediation. Both parties sit down with an impartial mediator, usually a solicitor with extra accreditation to mediate, and talk through the disagreement until a resolution can be found. You can have legal advice before and in between sessions, but the mediator won’t choose sides, and can’t make a judgement or binding decision.

Early Neutral Evaluation

On the other hand, early neutral evaluation is a process which precedes litigation. You may have heard it referred to as a private judging – which is quite an apt description. In this case, both parties appoint an evaluator, who will be impartial like a mediator or judge. The evaluator will look at both sides of a case and tell you what the outcome would be if you took it to court. You can then progress your settlement negotiations with this in mind.

The differences in these approaches

The obvious benefit of ENE is that you get the certainty and clarity of a court ruling, whilst avoiding or reducing the cost of litigation. Unlike mediation, ENE provides a sharp focus for negotiations based around a preliminary judgement all parties are subject to. Where a case has two sides with very different arguments, ENE puts your position into perspective and eliminates any unrealistic thinking. In mediation, this might take longer to do, as it depends on proper cooperation and communication.

Conversely, ENE produces a ‘winner’ which is bad news when you’re trying to make negotiations fair for everyone. The party whose position is looked on favourably in the evaluation can use this to the disadvantage of the other party. In mediation, the resolution is completely voluntary, which is much more likely to preserve an amicable relationship than a disappointing evaluation.

Lastly, there is cost to consider. At Laurus our team have experience with litigation, mediation, private judging and more, and so can tell you which will be the most cost-effective for your preferred results.

A lot of the time, both ENE and mediation are less costly than litigation, but they might not meet your needs. Or, if you chose mediation over ENE, and it didn’t suit your case, the process could become lengthy and costs could build up. That’s why it’s always important to consult with an expert who will be transparent about cost and has the expertise to choose the method that is best for you.

At Laurus, our lawyers are on hand at every step of your case and can explain what they’re doing and why – so you can have confidence and control over your legal matters.

If you're considering divorce, or would like to find out more about your options, feel free to get in touch with our Family Law Team on 020 3146 6300, or hello@lauruslaw.co.uk for friendly, professional and strictly confidential advice.