Tips for a Successfully Mediated Divorce
Divorce mediation is more popular than ever. The following guide is meant to assist you in getting the most out of your mediation as you proceed with your divorce in Massachusetts.
Financial DisclosuresIt is important to understand that even if you and your spouse agree on everything, you must still follow the divorce process required by the court. The court requires certain documents, even in "uncontested" divorces. Both parties will have to file financial statements. Based upon your income, you will either do a "short form" (income under $75,000/yr) or you will do a "long form" (income over $75,000/yr). The financial statements should be completed PRIOR to the mediation. They are very important documents ahich are signed uder the pains and penalties of perjury. They should not be rushed. Gather and exchange relevant documents with your spouse, such as pay stubs, W2's, tax returns, bank account info, pension info etc. The mediator is not acting as an attorney when conducting the mediation and, as such, is unable to give you individualized legal advice. There must be a level of trust between the parties in the financial disclosures in order for mediation to work. For instance, if you feel your spouse is hiding assets or income, mediation is probably not for you or your case. Hiring your own lawyer may make more snese in that scenario. Your own lawyer can do discovery, send subpoenas, have appraisals conducted, take depositions etc. The mediator cannot do this.
Having your financial statements completed prior to the mediation will save you time and money.
Children FirstIn Massachusetts, if you have children under the age of 18, the court requires that you attend a divorcing parents education program (Parents Forever Program) PRIOR to filing for an uncontested divorce. The certificate you receive at the end of the class will get filed along with all of your other uncontested divorce documents. The class is still required for contested divorce cases, however, you do not need the certificate to file a contested divorce (it must be filed before your divorce is finalized). As a mediator, I find it very helpful if the parties have already attended the class. The class often gives useful tips about how to organize a parenting plan and how to communicate successfully with each other on child related issues after the divorce is over. You may schedule the class at any time. Here is a link to the information about the class and the various locations:
Be Open MindedThe art of mediation is one of balance and compromise. If you are too firm in a position and unwilling to consider another point of view, mediation may not be the best option for your case. Allow the mediator to suggest alternatives to your position which may solve the differences you are having. An experienced Divorce mediator will be able to offer multiple solutions to your issues if both parties are willing to listen and be open minded. Remember, there is no guarantee a Judge will see things exactly as you do either, so sometimes compromise between the parties is a better way to resolve disputes.
Legal AdviceAfter your agreement is drafted by your mediator, you should bring the document, along with the financial statements, to an experienced divorce lawyer for review. The mediator will not and should not provide you with independent legal advice, as this would be considered a conflict of interest. The Mediator must remain neutral in your case.