Frequently Asked Questions ABOUT DIVORCE MEDIATION
What is divorce mediation?
A voluntary and non-adversarial process by which a neutral divorce mediator assists the parties with identifying and discussing issues to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on all elements arising from a contemplated separation, divorce, post-divorce or other domestic relations matter.
How does divorce mediation work?
Mediator Kaplan will organize the divorce mediation process by:
coordinating an exchange of financial information and other essential documents because full disclosure of income, assets and debts is required;
providing you with the guidance, support and structure required to reach a comprehensive and realistic settlement that meets your needs; and
facilitating the discussion of issues, options and alternatives through a series of sessions.
**As your divorce mediator, Judy Kaplan does not represent either or both parties as an attorney and does not serve as an adviser, judge or arbitrator. Her services as your divorce mediator DO NOT create an attorney-client relationship or attorney-client privilege.**
It can be cost-effective to hire one experienced professional to organize and to facilitate settlement discussions. She strives to maintain a collaborative environment. She has over 22 years of experience as a family law attorney and divorce mediator. She is thorough and attentive - read her 5-star Google reviews here.
What if only one of us wants the divorce?
Massachusetts is a no-fault state which means it is virtually impossible for a spouse to prevent the divorce. As long as one spouse asserts there is no chance of reconciliation and wants out, the divorce will be granted. There is no need to prove misconduct or blame. So as angry or shocked as you or your spouse may be over a request for a divorce, consider divorce mediation as a dignified and cost-effective method to legally terminate your marriage.
What is our first step?
Call Mediator Kaplan to screen your case. There is no charge for your initial call. If appropriate, Mediator Kaplan will provide you with her Mediation and Fee Agreement and client questionnaire. This is typically followed-up with a consultation where Mediator Kaplan will get to learn more about your circumstances and discuss the mediation process. There is no charge for the first 1/2 hour of your consultation. We typically meet for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
How do we prepare for a consultation?
Attorney Kaplan will provide you with a detailed questionnaire and her Mediation and Fee Agreement prior to our first meeting. She requests that you each fill out the questionnaire (to the best of your ability) and you each bring it with you to your consultation. The more information you provide, the more effective she can be. She will review both questionnaires and her fee agreement during your consultation. It can also be helpful to bring a copy of your marriage certificate - but not necessary.
You decide where to meet: Norwell, Quincy or Braintree. Video conferencing (via Zoom) is also an option.
There is no charge for the first 1/2 hour of your consultation.
What forms of payment are accepted?
Fees are accepted via credit card, checks, Venmo, cash and debit cards. Fees are collected at the conclusion of each mediation meeting. A small retainer is required and relied upon if a check bounces or she has drafted a summary of your settlement.
What happens after we reach a mediated settlement?
Once a mediated settlement is reached, Mediator Kaplan can prepare a working draft of your Separation Agreement or a Memorandum of Understanding.
What will our settlement negotiations cover?
Mediator Kaplan will help you read a settlement about:
Child Support (and help you understand the 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines);
College Education Expenses;
Division of Marital Assets (including disposition of the marital home);
Allocation of Debts;
Modifications (Post-Divorce Issues) and
Arrearages (child support and alimony).
If we use a divorce mediator, do we also need attorneys?
Both parties are strongly encouraged to consult with independent legal counsel during divorce mediation since separation and divorce involve significant responsibilities and rights and tax consequences. Only a lawyer can advise you as to how the law applies to your particular set of circumstances and to explore the options with you to enable you to make fully informed decisions during the divorce mediation process.
How long will it take to get a divorce if we go through the divorce mediation process?
Once a Separation Agreement is approved by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, your divorce becomes final 120 days thereafter (under a Joint Petition for Divorce only).
Will we have to go to court if we reach an agreement through divorce mediation?
Yes. One brief appearance at a divorce hearing will be required to approve your Separation Agreement. Some hearings are now being held virtually.
Can I still go to court if divorce mediation does not work out?
Yes. Divorce mediation is voluntary. Your participation in divorce mediation does not prevent you from seeking court intervention or pursuing other forms of alternate dispute resolution. You do not give up any rights by participating in divorce mediation.