Emily Cunningham


Emily’s practice is guided by her awareness that an attorney’s role requires more than knowledge of the law. Empathy and effective communication are essential components of a successful collaboration between attorney and client. Emily listens closely to her clients, and guides them through the complex and callous landscape of the court system from beginning to end. She takes the time to understand her clients’ values and goals, and keeps these front and center throughout the process.
Emily has extensive experience working with families and individuals in challenging circumstances from all walks of life. In law school, she organized multiple trips to the U.S. southern border to provide pro-bono legal assistance to families seeking asylum. From 2020-2021 she clerked for the Federal Public Defenders in Portland, where she developed strong legal research and writing skills as well as an appreciation for the importance of client-centered work. Emily’s strong analytical skills are equally matched by her interpersonal skills. She makes sure that her clients understand the legal process so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their loved ones by maintaining a voice in the outcomes. As a research fellow for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Emily worked to come up with solutions to international-scale problems. This big picture mindset informs Emily’s philosophy in her family law practice. Whether it is a divorce or a custody dispute, Emily always seeks to ensure that the best interests of all those impacted are served through creative and efficient problem-solving. By maintaining this solution-oriented perspective, Emily is able to provide cost-effective services that avoid the harmful effects of excessive litigation and leaves families in the best position to move forward with dignity. Emily joined Forward Legal Services as an attorney in 2021 upon graduating from the University of Oregon Law. Her choice to focus on family law was a natural outgrowth of her experiences during her training. Emily believes there is a better way to navigate the legal system as families work through difficult changes. Her practice areas include divorce mediation, collaborative and traditional divorce and legal separation, paternity, guardianships, child custody and placement, child support, alimony/maintenance, same-sex divorces, step-parent adoptions, pre and post nuptial agreements, and grandparent visitation rights. Prior to law school, Emily lived and taught English in Santa Marta, Colombia and traveled extensively throughout South America. A Madison native and UW-Madison alumni, she is thrilled to finally return “home”. When she isn’t advocating for her clients, Emily loves to read Kurt Vonnegut and take walks around the neighborhood with her dog, Ren. She is also fluent in Spanish.

Speeches & Presentations

Over 100 presentations to a variety of audiences including lawyers, judges, physicians, social workers, teachers, students, community based organizations, government agencies and the general public. Topics have included high net worth divorces, complex child custody disputes, psychological profiles of parents in child custody evaluations, child support for the self-employed or business owner, the enforceability of marital property agreements, alimony/maintenance with high net income parties; the unique legal issues in same-sex divorces, grandparent visitation rights, and resolving high conflict divorces. A few recent seminars in which Christopher has presented include:

  • Understanding the New Relocation Statute, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Madison, October 18, 2019
  • Family Law Update:  Relocation Statute, State Bar Webcast, Madison, April 15, 2019
  • Grandparent and Third-Party Visitation Rights, Wisconsin Judicial Education Seminar, Neenah, March 14, 2019
  • The New Relocation Statute:  When a Parent Wishes to Move Away, Milwaukee Bar Association, Milwaukee, February 25, 2019
  • Staying Current on New Laws Regarding Child Support and Relocation of a Child, Wisconsin Judicial Education Seminar, Lake Geneva, November 1, 2018
  • Gathering and Analyzing Financial Information in Divorce, National Business Institute, April 10, 2018
  • Today’s Diversity and Inclusion Programs: Successes, Ethical Issues and Challenges, State Bar of Wisconsin, December 11, 2017
  • Divorce Law: Handling Relocation Issues, National Business Institute National Teleconference, July 5, 2016
  • “Divorce” for Unmarried Partners, State Bar of Wisconsin Webcast, May 2016
  • Grandparent Visitation Rights, State Bar of Wisconsin Webcast, May 2016
  • Case Law Update: Family Law, State Bar of Wisconsin Webcast, May 2016
  • Wisconsin Child Support & Enforcement Conference, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, October 23, 2015
  • Divorce 101: The Basics, Morgan Stanley, Inc., Middleton, Wisconsin, October 13, 2015


  • WI State Bar
  • National Lawyers Guild


  • University of Oregon Pro Bono Award


  • Building Blocks of Collaborative Practice, Aug. 2021
  • Conference on Child Welfare and The Courts: A New Way Forward


  • Since 2014 Best Lawyers in America in the area of Family Law
  • 2017 & 2018 Lawyers of Distinction
  • 2015 Leader in the Law by the Wisconsin Law Journal
  • 2015 Top 10 Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys
  • 2006, 2007 & 2010 Rising Star designation with Law and Politics magazine
  • 2005, 2007 & 2009 Volunteer Attorney of the Year from AIDS Network
  • 2007 Executive Director’s Volunteer of Year Award from AIDS Network
  • 2006 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year, Dane County Bar Association
  • Admission into the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
  • Fellow – Fellows of Wisconsin Law Foundation
  • Member of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Wisconsin

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