Divorce has been determined to be one of the worst times in a person’s life. Although two people must agree to marry, it only takes one person to decide that the marriage is over and to seek a divorce. With ‘no fault’ divorce the law in Massachusetts, no one can be forced to remain married. Divorce becomes inevitable once a spouse believes the marriage has reached an irretrievable breakdown for any colorable reason.
Couples typically find the beginning stages of the divorce process overwhelming due to the many issues that must be taken into consideration. When confronted with a divorce, spouses with children usually are first concerned about spousal support (alimony) and their children. When getting a divorce, couples must understand their many options. Reaching agreement on those issues is difficult in most cases; and couples typically turn to advice and support from their family members and friends. With about 50% of marriages in Massachusetts ended by divorce, there is a legion of experience with those two major issues. Instead of relying only on advice from family and friends, jointly hiring one specialist knowledgeable and experienced with the options is an increasingly attractive choice. Divorce mediation, one of the most well-known sources of professional and non-adversarial help, is designed to assist couples resolve their differences during the divorcing process.
There are three types of divorce actions in the state of Massachusetts. One type is based on “fault” while the other two types are based on “no fault”. No-fault divorce is the only type of divorce that most consider to be non-adversarial, even though some fault divorce could be addressed and resolved in a collaborative manner. Mediation requires both parties to agree to participate.
Mediation is an option that begins with both parties agreement to hire a divorce mediator, often an attorney. The mediator will meet with the couple for as many sessions as needed until they either reach agreement or an impasse is reached. The mediator is not the decision-maker, and instead helps the couple articulate their interests and goals, and facilitates a reasonable resolution that will be acceptable to the Court. It is an effective way for a couple to settle their differences without resorting to very expensive and time-consuming litigation. Divorce mediation ultimately can prevent years of hard feelings and continued friction that may result from a contested divorce. Mediators strongly encourage clients each to consult with their own family attorney, to be sure they understand their respective rights and obligations under Massachusetts divorce law, and that their draft mediated agreement will ‘pass muster’ with the Court. Once their respective attorney has advised each party, they can finalize their agreement with more confidence that it will stand the test of time.
If you are considering divorce mediation, we invite you to call us and learn more about the mediation process. Jeanne Kangas is the Past President of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and has a wealth of experience that may be able to help you and your family.