Mediation and Divorce

When two people in love think about marriage they probably imagine building a home together, spending white Christmases snuggled up next to a fire, raising a family, and vacations spent in the sun. When people set out to marry, they generally do not think about the worst: standing in a court room, waiting on the judge to decide who gets what. Such a contentious situation is the exact opposite of what a marriage should be. And yet, in 2009 there were 12,700 divorces in Massachusetts, as reported most recently to the U.S. Census Bureau-more than 1,000 a month.

A better divorce

Confronting a soon-to-be-ex-spouse in court, in front of a judge, is no longer the only viable option. More and more couples are turning to mediation as a way to work through the process with as little acrimony as possible. Mediation is a negotiation process in which the two parties, who would otherwise be the plaintiff and defendant, come to a resolution with the help of a third, neutral party known as the mediator. This process may be used for a number of situations and can be either mandatory or voluntary. It is becoming increasingly used as a voluntarily assumed alternative to litigation in divorce and custody cases.

A recent study found that mediation in divorce cases produced greater party satisfaction in the outcome, emotional state, spousal relationship, and understanding children's needs than litigation. Mediation gives the couple an opportunity to air their grievances in a neutral setting and to be more in control of the whole process. The mediator's role is to ensure a fair outcome for both parties, not to impose what he or she thinks is best for everyone.

Practically, mediation is typically more cost- and time-effective than litigation. According to the National Conflict Resolution Center, the average cost of mediation per person is $2,000 to $5,000 and generally takes three to six months. Going through litigation can cost as much as $20,000 per person and take as much as two years until a final resolution is reached.

Where to start

The first thing you will want to do when contemplating divorce is to speak to an experienced Massachusetts family law attorney. A lawyer can advise you throughout the mediation process, which is important because parties to mediation are generally on their own during the sessions and legal advice is not given by the mediator. Your attorney will make sure you know your rights going in, explain your options along the way, help you find the right mediator for you and keep you updated on the status of your case. In Massachusetts, mediators must be licensed in order to engage in the process. The Percy Law Group offers the services of attorneys who are licensed mediators.