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  • February 14, 2018

    Pro Se Mediation is Hard Work

    Former Sheboygan County Circuit Court Judge James Bolgert was attracted to a mediation practice because he believes in using mediation to resolve family disputes.

    Hon. James J. Bolgert

    divorce rings gavel

    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 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.

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    Dispute Resolution Section Blog is published by the State Bar of Wisconsin; blog posts are written by section members. To contribute to this blog, contact Lisa Derr and review Author Submission Guidelines. Learn more about the Dispute Resolution Section or become a member.

    Disclaimer: Views presented in blog posts are those of the blog post authors, not necessarily those of the Section or the State Bar of Wisconsin. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the State Bar of Wisconsin makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content.

    © 2023 State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.

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