A number of procedural models are available to a couple going through a physical separation, divorce, or other family-related conflict, to help them resolve the issues between them. The models vary in the amount of attorney and court involvement, conflict and cost to the couple.
I include some information about both pro se and litigation models at this link. At this time in my life and career, I offer service to parties going through a divorce or legal separation in Mediation, Collaborative Divorce or Low Conflict Divorce. Click here to see the services I do provide.
(These materials are for informational purposes only, to help you recognize your legal rights and responsibilities. They are not a substitute for speaking with an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.)
In the pro se model, parties do not hire attorneys to help them negotiate an agreement, or process any required legal documents with the court system. They negotiate their agreements on their own, which is why this model is frequently referred to as the “kitchen table” model. If parties are divorcing, they prepare and file all the necessary documents by themselves, including the initial summons and petition, any motions and affidavits, financial disclosure statements, written agreements, and the final judgment of divorce.
In many areas of the state, the county court system has form documents available to parties who are proceeding pro se. The parties may also use books or internet resources for information and assistance with the process. In the pro se model, the parties negotiate and draft their final divorce agreement, and then present it to the court for approval. If they are unable to reach agreement on all issues, they should be prepared to gather the information the judge will need to decide the issues, present their case to the court by calling witnesses, presenting documentary evidence as appropriate, and telling the court why their requests should be granted. The judge or family court commissioner will then make the final decisions.
In the traditional litigation model of family law, typically each party hires an attorney who advocates for that party’s position. Negotiation occurs, generally through the attorneys, and most cases do end with an agreement. However, if the parties are unable to resolve their differences and reach an agreement, they may turn to a judge to make the final decision after a court proceeding, or hearing, in which the parties’ attorneys present evidence and make argument to the judge.
Parties may experience the following advantages to the traditional litigation model:
- An attorney’s advice and counsel as to what is a reasonable position within the Wisconsin statutes and case la
- Assistance in advocating for what they want in the action
- An ability to get a resolution of the issues through the court system, if they cannot reach an agreement
Parties may also experience the following disadvantages in the traditional litigation model:
- A loss of control over the negotiations, including the tone of the negotiations
- A loss of privacy about their lives and personal finances
- Frustration at the fact that a stranger (a judge) is making decisions about their lives which will affect them and their families for years
- Anger and bitterness toward each other, especially if they go through a court hearing to get resolution of the issues
- Astronomical attorney fees and costs
I have practiced family law for 33 years, and have handled many cases in the traditional litigation model. However, I believe that clients are better served if they are able to resolve their issues without resorting to the court system.