Participation and Flexibility in Informal Processes: Cautions from the Divorce Context

21 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2014

See all articles by Howard S. Erlanger

Howard S. Erlanger

University of Wisconsin Law School

Elizabeth Chambliss

University of South Carolina - Law Library

Marygold S. Melli

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: 1987

Abstract

Based on open-ended interviews with the parties and lawyers in twenty-five informally settled divorce cases, this study finds that the informal process is often contentious, adversarial, and beyond the perceived control of one or both parties. Although settlement in some cases reflects flexibility, party participation, and true agreement, in most cases it reflects unequal financial resources, procedural support,or emotional stamina. Parties report settling issues such as child support according to nonlegal, situational factors-particularly their relative impatience to finalize the divorce-and mutual satisfaction with settlement terms is low. Our findings raise questions about the assumed value of informal settlement. However, we recognize that informal processing of divorce is structurally and institutionally inevitable(with or without evidence of its desirability), and we suggest that reform efforts must ultimately recognize both the inevitability and the limits of informal process.

Keywords: Divorce, Informal Process

Suggested Citation

Erlanger, Howard S. and Chambliss, Elizabeth and Melli, Marygold S., Participation and Flexibility in Informal Processes: Cautions from the Divorce Context (1987). 21 Law & Society Review 585 (1987); Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1301. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2500988

Howard S. Erlanger

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.wisc.edu/facstaff/biog.php?iID=266

Elizabeth Chambliss (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - Law Library ( email )

1525 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Marygold S. Melli

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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