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Wisconsin Alternative Dispute Resolution

We all face disagreements, whether at work, in our neighborhood, at school, or at home with our families. Sometimes, the dispute escalates to where one or both sides seek a solution by suing.

However, ADR allows you and the other party to agree before going to court.

Some Alternative Dispute Resolution benefits include:

Confidentiality of conflict and parties involved

    • Saves court costs
    • Saves time
    • Reduces formality
    • Increases flexibility

How Alternative Dispute Resolution Works in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, a court may order the parties to a civil suit to participate in certain dispute resolution forms under section 802.12(2) (a) of the Wisconsin Statutes. Only if the parties cannot agree on an ADR method will the judge step in and order them to go through it.

Start by talking to and seeking advice from an attorney. But if your ADR practitioner understands the situation well, they can recommend the most suitable ADR procedure for you. Without representation, you may raise the question at the initial court appearance or during the scheduling conference with the judge.

Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution You Can Get?

ADR requires creative solutions that meet the needs of all parties involved. Our role as a third party includes mediation and Guardian ad Litem.


ADR experts have described mediation as the sleeping giant of ADR. It’s simple, easy to prepare, and doesn’t require much effort on your part. Wisconsin defines mediation as a process where a neutral third party, who does not have the power to impose a decision, assists parties in settling.

The law in Wisconsin emphasizes the need for mediation to help the parties reach a mutually acceptable conclusion by;

            • Focusing on the key issues
            • Exchanging information between parties
            • Exploring settlement options

Wisconsin allows a mediator to facilitate an expanded negotiation and assist in the case discussion.

The mediator shouldn’t decide and render any opinions or recommendations based on their evaluation. A traditional mediation model includes a scheduled session where the mediator and all parties and counsel are present. A mediator may provide an opinion in a “pure mediation,” but the parties control the content. Judges send civil court cases to this “classic” mediation model.

Guardian Ad Litem

The court appoints a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) whenever there is a dispute over custody or placement. In Wisconsin, a Guardian ad Litem is a licensed attorney who represents the interests of the children through investigations.

Mediation is the first step to agreeing between the parents. Occasionally, a court will waive the mediation requirement. If all parties cannot agree, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to assist the court with determining custody or placement. If the court sees a need to protect the welfare of a child, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem.

To represent the interests of your children, a Guardian ad Litem may:

            • Negotiate settlements
            • Make formal and informal discoveries
            • Engage experts
            • Interview witnesses
            • Determine whether parent-to-parent violence has occurred
            • Take part in all court proceedings and comment on proposed parenting plans, stipulations, or mediation agreements.

Either party can request a status hearing after 120 days of the Guardian ad Litem’s appointment about the actions taken and work performed.

When to Seek Alternative Dispute Resolution

An alternative dispute resolution process is effective anywhere during a dispute, including:

    • When a dispute arises before a lawsuit
    • During any phase of the lawsuit
    • Following a trial and a ruling
    • Before or after an appeal

The Wisconsin Supreme Court permits referring your case for ADR if you are already in a civil lawsuit. Duluth, Greater Superior/Ashland area, Spooner, or Brainerd have ADR programs that give parties in small claims cases the chance to take part for free or a nominal fee.

We can help you with alternative dispute resolution for divorce, physical placement cases, and custody in Wisconsin, so let the judge know to contact us for an appointment. Our mediators at Duluth family lawyers will be happy to help you with your case for a better future for your child and yourself.

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