Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mediation
Mediation is a rapidly growing alternative to the old fashioned, adversarial approach to divorce. Instead of two lawyers fighting it out in a courtroom, you and your spouse work with a mediator toward a negotiated settlement in a private and comfortable office. Even those couples who enter into the process with a considerable amount of animosity and tension between them, find they can participate in mutually beneficial divorce mediation.
A divorce can be the most stressful event of your life. Perhaps you and your spouse do not agree on what is best for your children, whether one of you will keep the marital home and how much support or alimony should be paid, if any. Even in the most contentious cases, mediation can be the answer.
The Mediation Process is completed in much less time than a contested courtroom divorce. Participating couples are often able to reach a conclusion in just a few sessions. And because the process does not drag on, and because there is no need for multiple court appearances, the cost can be as much as seventy percent less than a traditional divorce. In our experience, most cases can be negotiated in three to four sessions, each lasting about ninety minutes, at a total cost of about $5,000.
It is a civilized alternative that not only benefits you and your spouse, but it is also better for your children. You and your spouse decide what is best for them, not a judge who does not know either of you or the details of your lives. And recent studies that have compared the long term results of mediated divorces to court ordered judgments, have consistently found that mediated settlements result in a higher rate of compliance by both parties and, as a result, less risk of expensive re-litigation.
The Mediation Process
At Newburyport Family Law & Divorce Mediation, your Mediator will be a practicing attorney who has more than twenty years of experience in divorce and family law. Although not all divorce mediators are attorneys, there is a significant advantage to working with one who is. A lawyer knows the law. A lawyer knows what the court will consider ‘fair and reasonable’ and can prepare the documents you and your spouse will need to complete the divorce process.
There is no charge for the first meeting, which usually takes about a half-hour. Each subsequent session will last approximately ninety minutes during which the mediator will facilitate your communication with your spouse, focusing on one issue at a time.
The mediator will then draft a Separation Agreement that you and your spouse can accept as the terms of your divorce. You will each have the opportunity to have the document reviewed by your own attorney, if you have retained one, or by an independent attorney on a Limited Assistance basis.
At that point the mediator will provide you with a packet of completed documents together with the information that you and your spouse will need to proceed on your own. This packet will include all the documents required by the court for you to obtain a no-fault, uncontested divorce, including a cover letter and envelope addressed to the Register of the appropriate court as well as instructions on filing your documents, the fee that must accompany them, where to go on the day of your hearing and what questions you might expect the judge to ask. The hearing will be very short, only about ten minutes, and 120 days after your appearance, your divorce will be final.
At Newburyport Family Law & Divorce Mediation, we have extensive experience working with same sex couples. The issues you and your partner must resolve in the event of a divorce or modification include property division, support and child custody and your rights and obligations as a gay or lesbian couple are protected under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
We will work with you and your partner to ensure you are able to reach a full and fair agreement for yourselves and your children. We will then write that agreement in the format required by the court so a judge may find that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and that the terms of your agreement are fair and reasonable. You will each have the opportunity to have the document reviewed by your own attorney, if you have retained one, or by an independent attorney on a Limited Assistance basis. Whether you choose to have another lawyer review the Agreement is entirely up to you. When both you and your partner are satisfied with the way the Agreement is written, you will sign it and the terms of your divorce or modification will have been decided.
Mediating A Modification
At Newburyport Family Law & Divorce Mediation, we also assist couples who are already divorced but who want to make changes to the terms of their divorce judgment. This proceeding is known as a modification.
Whether you and your former spouse want to change one aspect of your divorce judgment, such as the amount of child support that is being paid, or several aspects, such as custody, visitation and support, we can assist you in working toward a settlement.
Once the terms of your modification have been agreed upon, we will prepare an Agreement for Judgment containing your understanding in a form the court will accept. You will each have the opportunity to have that Agreement reviewed by your own attorney, if you have retained one, or by an independent attorney on a Limited Assistance basis. Whether you choose to have another lawyer review the Agreement is entirely up to you. When both you and your spouse are satisfied with the way the Agreement is written, you will sign it and the terms of your modification will have been decided.
In some cases, a Modification Agreement may be approved and entered by the Court without you and your former spouse even appearing. We will advise you as to whether or not you must appear and in any event, we will provide you with all the documents you need for a Modification Judgment to be entered.