How long does divorce mediation take?

Since all divorcing couples are different there is never a fixed time frame. The “right” number of mediation meetings and their duration and frequency are determined by the actual time each couple needs to work out mutually satisfactory arrangements of their post-marital lives. In very general terms, a divorcing couple with two kids and a house might expect their divorce mediation meetings to consist of about five, two hour sessions, spaced two weeks apart.

Do I need a lawyer during divorce mediation?

Every spouse in divorce is absolutely entitled to be represented by a lawyer at any time. On the other hand, no divorcing spouse can be compelled to retain counsel.Some divorce mediation clients are represented by counsel from start to finish. Some clients hire an attorney solely to review documents. Some never hire a lawyer. I advise all clients in divorce mediation to seriously consider retaining counsel, at least to review the separation agreement before signing it. As a lawyer and mediator, when I am jointly hired by a divorcing couple I act ONLY as their mediator. I never represent either divorce mediation client as an attorney. As a mediator, I do not appear in court with a couple at the hearing of their divorce. As an attorney I may be retained by one spouse in a non-adversarial, no-fault divorce. As counsel for a client in an uncontested divorce, I may have been retained to review a separation agreement, or as collaborative counsel – to negotiate an agreement with my client’s spouse and his or her attorney. When I am hired by one divorcing spouse I often accompany my client to court.

What happens if we can’t reach an agreement in mediation?

Divorce mediation always occurs in the “shadow of the law.” When couples cannot reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce, a judge is empowered to impose a “settlement.” Therefore, divorce mediation only succeeds when both spouses actively make a good-faith effort to reach agreement. With no legal obligation to resolve their differences, each spouse’s genuine commitment to achieve a fair and reasonable agreement is essential for their divorce mediation to succeed.

How much does mediation cost?

Most couples share the cost of mediation. My hourly fee is $350. Hourly fees apply to all meetings, travel, telephone calls, letters & email, review of file materials & documents, and the time necessary to prepare agreements, court forms & collateral documents requested.

A $3,000 retainer is paid as the mediation begins. All retainers are deposited in a clients’ trust account and applied against billed time and expenses. After the mediation ends any trust account balance due to clients is promptly refunded. I encourage clients to do as much work as possible on their own to help minimize their mediation costs.

What are Cohabitation Agreements?

Cohabitation agreements are contracts made by unmarried people who live (or plan to live) together. In 1998 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled for the first time that “unmarried cohabitants may lawfully contract concerning property, financial, and other matters relevant to their relationship. Such a contract is subject to the rules of contract law and is valid even if expressly made in contemplation of a common living arrangement….” (Wilcox v. Trautz, 427 Mass. 326, 332.)

What are Premarital Agreements?

Premarital Agreements (previously known as ‘prenuptial’ or ‘antenuptial’ agreements) are contracts made by people before they marry. They are designed by prospective spouses to define and limit their separate ownership interests in property after marriage. Premarital Agreements do not take effect until the marriage has occurred. Thus an enforceable premarital agreement can determine the distribution of marital assets at the end of a marriage — immediately after the wedding.

What are Marital Agreements?

Previously known as ‘postnuptial’ agreements, Marital Agreements are private contracts negotiated by spouses with no imminent plans to divorce, who wish to define certain rights and obligations while married, regardless of whether they are living together or apart.

What are Separation Agreements

separation agreement is a contract designed to settle all outstanding marital issues, drafted after marriage in anticipation of divorce. It defines the legal end of the couple’s relationship as spouses and determines their post-divorce rights and obligations. Before any couple is granted a non-adversarial, no-fault divorce in Massachusetts, their signed, notarized, separation agreement must be submitted to a probate and family court for approval.

What are Post-Divorce Modifications?

Ex-spouses often find themselves in situations they didn’t anticipate when they divorced, especially when children are involved. When ex-spouses can’t agree on how to resolve a post-divorce dispute there is always recourse to the court as adversaries, asking a judge to modify or reverse a previous order or judgment. However, many post-divorce changes can be easily accommodated by agreement with little or no court involvement. When ex-spouses agree on the changes needed to adjust to new circumstances, there are three non-adversarial options available: verbal agreements, written agreements and joint petitions.

Ask questions!

I invite you to ask specific questions about your particular situation. All inquiries will be held in strict confidence. Please e-mail questions to me at: wallerstein@socialaw.com Depending on the number of questions I receive, it may take a few days to reply. I will answer every question received.