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? Your divorce mediator does not represent either party or serve as an adviser, judge or arbitrator. There will be an exchange of financial information and essential documents because full disclosure of income, assets and debts is required. Attorney Kaplan helps to organize the divorce mediation process by 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 Separation Agreement.
How do we prepare for a consultation? Attorney Kaplan will provide you with a detailed questionnaire and her 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 conferences and telephone conferences are also options.
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 divorce mediation meeting.
Who drafts your agreement? Once an agreement is reached, Attorney Kaplan can draft a written document known as a "Separation Agreement" which will be signed by both parties, filed in court and serve as your divorce agreement. A judge must approve your Separation Agreement in order for it to be recognized by the Commonwealth and to obtain a legal divorce.
If we use a divorce mediator, do we also need attorneys? Attorneys are not required, HOWEVER, parties are encouraged to consult with independent legal counsel during divorce mediation since separation and divorce involve significant responsibilities and rights and tax consequences. A licensed attorney who serves as your divorce mediator cannot and does not represent either or both of you at any time during the divorce mediation process. 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. Your attorney can also review your Separation Agreement and Financial Statement before you sign them.
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 - now being held virtually due COVID-19. In most circumstances, Attorney Kaplan can assist you and your spouse with the appropriate paperwork required to schedule a divorce hearing date.
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.