Divorce Mediation Process
- What is Mediation?
- What are the costs for divorce mediation?
- Can mediation be successful if the couple has already retained lawyers and are involved in the court process?
- What if the mediator believes one member of the couple is not revealing all of the assets of the marriage?
- If the mediator is a lawyer, why should each party need to seek the advice of another lawyer?
- What if the couple constantly fights in mediation, how can they communicate?
- What techniques do mediators use to address power/knowledge imbalances between a couple?
- Does the cost of advisory/review attorneys increase the cost of mediation dramatically?
- Can the mediator go to court for the divorce hearing?
Q: What is mediation?
Mediation allows both parties to reach a fair settlement with a neutral third party. It allows the couple to control the time-frame and can be economical, while a traditional divorce can be time consuming and costly.
Couples can make joint decisions regarding their finances, custody issues and property versus having a judge issue orders regarding their lives and the well being of their children.
Mediation offers a win/win solution while the increased conflict in a traditional divorce only proves to show a win/lose solution.
Q: What does it cost?
As mediator, my fee is $350.00 per hour, including all time spent in meetings, on the telephone, or preparing documents. Payment is due at the end of each mediation session or prior to preparation of any agreements or documents which have been requested.
In addition to the cost of mediation, it may be necessary for at least one of the parties to retain an attorney for the divorce proceedings, unless the parties decide to represent themselves. There is a $215.00 court filing fee for a divorce petition. Parents must each take a Court approved parenting class prior to filing for a court date.
Q: Can mediation be successful if the couple has already retained lawyers and are involved in the court process?
Yes. Being involved in the adversarial process used in the court system can convince couples that alternative dispute resolution is a better option for them. When couples realize how much of the court process is completely out of their control, they understand the benefit of a client directed approach, where the couple retains control of and can select and negotiate an outcome that they can live with.
Q: What if the mediator believes one member of the couple is not revealing all of the assets of the marriage?
Mediation cannot work if either party believes that the other is not revealing all of their assets. Each person fill out a court Financial Statement listing all income, assets, debts and expenses which is signed under the “ penalties of perjury”. If joint agreements are made by the couple on the basis of incomplete or erroneous information, what would otherwise be a final division can be subject to court review because of the fraudulent financial statement.
In other words, people who can’t achieve complete trust that all the assets and income from the marriage will be revealed in mediation should choose an alternative process for divorce, where assets and income may be “formally discovered” through depositions and interrogatories.
Q: If the mediator is a lawyer, why should each party need to seek the advice of another lawyer?
Having two independent review attorneys, one for each spouse, review the joint agreements provides “checks” on the exactness of legal language being used, and a review of the “balances” or joint agreements which have been made in the joint best interest of the couple. Independent advisory attorneys attempt to insure that the individual legal rights and best interests of each party are met within the joint agreements.
Q: What if the couple constantly fights in mediation, how can they communicate?
Mediators structure and control the process of mediation so that, for the most part, fighting between individuals does not continuously occur. Being able to assert separate opinions forcefully in mediation is a good sign of the individuals not being dominated or coerced by one another. Heated discussions in mediation sessions are not necessarily negative. Mediators convey graciously but forcefully that they are in charge of the process including when it needs to be suspended for the day or permanently.
Q: What techniques do mediators use to address power/knowledge imbalances between a couple?
One of the most frequently encountered imbalances is when one of the parties has more knowledge of finances, tax consequences, methods of valuation of assets, business and pensions. By referring the other spouse to experts in one or more of those areas, a “knowledge imbalance” may begin to be redressed. The advisory attorney during mediation may be a forceful advocate for and coach of a party whose power and knowledge needs augmenting.
Q: Does the cost of advisory/review attorneys increase the cost of mediation dramatically?
The use of advisory/review attorneys increases the cost of a completed divorce agreement, but not significantly. The increased costs are not dramatic and the use of advisory attorneys should wisely be planned for as an important component of a thorough mediation process which result in a collaboratively achieved divorce agreement.
Q: Can the mediator go to court for the divorce hearing?
No. The parties, with the assistance of their advisory attorney, get a hearing date with a judge and then may go to court with attorney(s) or go by themselves, representing themselves “pro se”. An attorney-mediator would not appear in court with mediation clients as it may create a perception to the court, or the couple, that the mediator had represented them.
Learn if mediation is a viable option for you to consider.
With offices in Lynnfield and Needham, Massachusetts. Tracy Fischer provides mediation and family law services to individuals and families throughout the Boston Metro region including Andover, Beverly, Boxford, Burlington, Danvers, Gloucester, Marblehead, Newton, Needham, Peabody, Salem, Tewksbury, Topsfield, Waltham, Watertown, Wayland, Wellesley, Weston and Wilmington, Massachusetts. Contact Massachusetts mediator Tracy Fischer to schedule a confidential consultation.