When I worked as a judge, I felt like I was driving an SUV.
When I mediate with attorneys, I feel like I’m driving a mid-size car.
Pro se mediation is like driving a go-cart: You are very close to the ground, it feels like you’re going very fast, and you feel all the bumps.
Here is the process I describe to litigants considering mediation:
You and your spouse may choose to mediate with or without lawyers.
If you are not represented by an attorney, I will:
- Meet with you and your spouse to educate you about mediation as a divorce option;
- Meet with you individually to gather information and identify issues;
- Meet with you jointly to consider options and negotiate an agreement; and
- Put your agreement in writing and draft the documents necessary to make the agreement work.
James Bolgert, U.W. 1979, served as Sheboygan County Circuit Court judge from 1994 until 2016. Recognizing a need for pro se mediation, he opened Bolgert Mediation, Sheboygan, where he mediates primarily family cases in which parties are represented.
I do not bill for the initial consultation. The consultation is for the benefit of the parties. The advantage to me is that I can evaluate the balance of power. They come in assuring me they have an agreement and that I just need to write it up. On at least one occasion, I declined, because the agreement was not fair to the custodial spouse.
I’ve skipped the individual sessions and regretted it. The more information I can get as quickly as possible, the better. My experience is that each session reveals more debt.
Which leads me to a surprise: I thought the number one challenge would be maintaining civility. In reality, the hardest issue is handling the staggering amount of credit card debt accumulated during the marriage.
This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Dispute Resolution Blog. Visit the State Bar sections or the Dispute Resolution Section web pages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.