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; and
facilitating the discussion of issues, options and alternatives through a series of sessions. She will identify points of agreement and disagreement with the ultimate goal of reaching a comprehensive settlement.
Your divorce mediator does not represent either party or serve as an adviser, judge or arbitrator.
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.
Who drafts our Memorandum of Understanding?
Once a settlement is reached, Attorney Kaplan will draft a Memorandum of Understanding which is a non-binding document summarizing the terms of your settlement. It will be utilized by separate attorneys to prepare a formal Separation Agreement to be signed and filed in Probate and Family Court to secure your respective rights and the terms of your divorce. A judge must approve your Separation Agreement in order for it to be recognized by the Commonwealth and to obtain a legal divorce.
What will our settlement negotiations cover?
Divorce 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 (money due on back child support and alimony).
If we use a divorce mediator, do we also need attorneys?
A licensed Massachusetts attorney who serves as your divorce/family law mediator cannot and does not represent either or both of you at any time during the divorce mediation process.
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.
At least one attorney is required to prepare your Separation Agreement however, both parties are strongly encouraged to consult with separate/independent counsel during this phase of the divorce process. After settlement, Mediator Kaplan will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding which separate attorneys will rely upon to draft a Separation Agreement.
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.