Vernon County Courts - Divorce/Family

 
Vernon County Government

Pro-Se Litigants

Information for Unrepresented Litigants in Post-Divorce Cases
Vernon County Circuit Court – January 1999

Improper Communication with the Court.

The Court occasionally receives letters from unrepresented litigants regarding enforcement or modification of divorce judgments. These letters usually constitute improper unilateral communications with the Court. They often ask the Court for “help” – either in the form of legal advice or resolution of some ongoing problem.

Legal Advice.

Neither the Judge nor the Clerk of Court can provide legal advice or make a direct referral for legal services. Divorce judgment enforcement and modification issues can never be resolved based upon a letter from one party.

Requests for Mediation.

It is proper to write the Court about post-judgment enforcement or modification if the parties are experiencing child custody or placement problems and are seeking a referral to mediation. Requests for mediation referral orders should detail the reasons for the request and a copy of the request must also be mailed to the other party. You should include your current address and telephone number along with the address and telephone number of the other party in your request.

Unsuccessful Mediation.

If mediation is not successful, the Court can consider a post-divorce custody/placement problem only after a detailed, proper motion is filed and duly served on the other party. The Court will then conduct a scheduling conference by telephone. A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) will probably be appointed and the parties will be required to post a bond for the GAL’s fees ($750 or more). The GAL investigates the dispute and reports back to the Court with recommendations. In some cases the GAL may retain a psychologist at the expense of the parties ($1,000 - $5,000).

Good Faith Requirement.

Good faith mediations – where the parties put the best interests of the children before their own interests – is preferable to expensive and time consuming litigation. Parties who take unreasonable positions in mediation or litigation can be required by the Court to pay all of the fees for the GAL, the experts and both attorneys.

Child Support and Other Financial Issues.

Post-divorce financial issues usually involve child support enforcement or modifications, but may include maintenance (alimony) enforcement or modifications or enforcement of property division. Again, unilateral letters to the Judge are improper and serve no purpose.

Stipulations.

Stipulations (agreements) are sometimes reached by the parties without involvement of attorneys. Stipulations can be filed with the Clerk and are usually approved by the Judge.

Motions or Other Pleadings.

Any financial dispute which cannot be resolved without court involvement must be set out in the proper motion or other pleading. The motion must be filed with Court and duly served on the other party.

Legal Representation.

If the parties have a dispute which they cannot resolve on their own, retaining an attorney is usually required, although the Vernon County Child Support Agency can assist with some child support problems. Attempts at self-representation are usually frustrating and unproductive, and ultimately more expensive. Attorneys are often able to negotiate a settlement which the parties cannot achieve on their own.

Court Hearings.

When a post-judgment dispute cannot be resolved by any other means, the Court will hold a scheduling conference by telephone and set a hearing at the earliest date and time available on the Court calendar.

 
 
         
THE CLERK OF CIRCUIT COURT AND STAFF ARE NOT ALLOWED TO GIVE LEGAL ADVICE