Whew! Are you feeling overwhelmed? If you are thinking about divorce in Massachusetts, it is understandable that you have plenty of questions.
Many couples find divorce mediation less expensive, less stressful, and a pathway to more cooperative parenting after the dust settles. We’ve compiled some frequently asked questions about (you guessed it!) divorce mediation in Massachusetts. Of course, the best way to get the specific information you need is to contact us to schedule a consultation.
Should I come in alone or with my spouse for the mediation initial consultation?
This is a judgement call on your part. If you and your spouse have talked about divorce mediation and you think there is a good chance that you will go that route, then we suggest you come in together for your consultation.
On the other hand, if you think there is a snowball’s chance in hell your spouse will agree to mediation, then you may be better off coming in alone for the initial meeting.
My friend went to a mediator, but the mediator was not much help with the financials. Do you review the child support guidelines with us?
Yes, we certainly do get involved with the financials. We help facilitate the exchange of information between spouses, obtaining the same information as is normally collected as part of a court-based divorce. We assist in completing the required court financial statements, child support worksheets, and alimony guidelines as necessary.
In Massachusetts, can mediation be used for higher net-worth couples or financially complex divorces?
Definitely, and many of our clients fit that description. We also use divorce financial software to provide additional information and reports, whether related to asset division, budgets and support scenarios, etc.
My spouse and I agree on most, but not all issues related to our pending divorce. Can we still go to mediation?
Yes. Some people mistakenly believe that the participants should agree on all issues before seeing a mediator. If that is the case, the services of a mediator may not even be needed, and an experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer can draft the divorce agreement and related forms to be filed with the court. Remember that the mediator you were considering may also be a licensed attorney, so it comes down to what “hat” the person is wearing and what services you contract for.
Divorce mediation is a process where a trained neutral helps the participants work through all of the issues related to the divorce; so it is common that couples have not reached an agreement or even talked about issues in-depth at the start of the process.
How much does divorce mediation cost?
The cost of divorce mediation can vary based on several factors. At Next Phase Legal, mediation clients select a comprehensive fixed fee mediation package or pay hourly. In the Boston and Metrowest areas, hourly rates can range from $250.00 to over $500 per hour based upon the specific location and the mediator’s experience, location, and other factors.
You should not assume that working with a mediator with a higher hourly rate means you will spend more for your mediation. An efficient and skilled mediator – even with a higher rate – may help you reach an agreement in less time. In addition to hourly billing, our fixed-fee mediation plans provide peace of mind, good value, and an effective framework that helps people stay focused on the important issues.
Of course, one of the biggest variables is controlled by you and your spouse – how long will it take you to reach an agreement? No matter what you decide, rest assured that we have never been involved in a mediation that cost more than a similar court-based case, or even heard of such a situation.
How long does divorce mediation take?
The answer to this question is somewhat related to the variables mentioned above. For example, couples with more complex financial situations may need more time when compared to a short-term marriage where there is no real estate owned. Parents will need to develop a parenting plan, discuss child support, and paying for college. Couples without children or with grown children will not need to address these specific issues, so they may need fewer sessions.
If mediating, do we still need to go to the Probate and Family Court?
Yes. As your mediation winds down, we’ll draft your divorce agreement and the other necessary court forms for your behalf. You will then file the packet with the court with the filing fee of $215 (current as of July 2014) and then the court will send you a notice stating when to appear for your short uncontested divorce hearing. Worry not – we’ll explain all of this to you as part of the process and make it as simple as possible.
Will You Conduct Online or Telephone Divorce Mediation?
We can accommodate a variety of situations, such as where one person has moved due to a new job. Much of communication is non-verbal, so we feel that everyone benefits and mediation works best when everyone is at the table together. As a Massachusetts law firm, we only handle Massachusetts divorce mediations.
How long does a typical divorce mediation session last?
We schedule mediation sessions for two hours. Once we handled a mediation for a couple where one spouse was only going to be in the US for a short period of time, so we scheduled longer sessions over the course of two days and got everything wrapped up for them – sort of a “mediation marathon.” Meeting about every two weeks seems to be a reasonable pace for many families.
Are evening or weekend appointments available?
We have families and busy households just like many of you, but when a client really needs scheduling flexibility, perhaps because of non-traditional work schedules, we try and accommodate. We may charge additional fees for appointments continuing past 6 p.m. or for weekend appointments.
We understand that missing work can also be problematic, so just let us know what you have in mind and we can work together to figure out the details.
Candy. I heard You Have Candy.
We are not able to discuss our classified business practices (wink wink).
If you are our divorce mediator, do we still need to each hire a divorce lawyer?
You do not need to hire a divorce attorney as part of the mediation process, and most of our mediation clients don’t hire outside counsel. Of course, you can hire a divorce lawyer to provide you with advice in between sessions or to review the agreement from your perspective at the end. Watch out for the lawyer that tries to blow up your agreement just to bill you and try to take the case to court. We’re able to provide referrals to area divorce attorneys that are respectful of the mediation process and understand the effort that goes into it.
Can my lawyer attend the mediation sessions?
This is not a common occurrence in Massachusetts. I remember someone saying that the best way to ruin a perfectly good mediation is to get outside lawyers involved! But seriously, having lawyers present does change the atmosphere and probably not in the most helpful way.
If there is a specific reason one or both participants want to bring their lawyers to a mediation session, we just need to discuss it in advance and consider some ground-rules, etc.
You can schedule an informative consultation with us by calling (508) 794-3515or filling out our contact form.