Massachusetts Divorce Law

Written by Lori Covington
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You don't have to learn the intricacies of Massachusetts divorce law to protect yourself when your marriage is ending. When dealing with divorce, pain, hurt and frustration can prevent couples from making decisions that can contribute to the financial and emotional health of the family. And while most people think that the best course of action is to hire a lawyer, there are other, more practical options available. Massachusetts divorce law allows for no-fault divorce; it also makes provisions for couples who want to create effective and binding divorce agreements without spending too much time and money on the traditional legal process.

Massachusetts Divorce Law Allows Mediation

Mediation is a time-tested method of effecting compromise between two parties, and it recognized as legal and binding in Massachusetts divorce law. Mediators are highly-trained professionals, versed in the art and science of forging agreement between parties who would otherwise be forced into litigation to solve their disputes. Mediation is a confidential service that can provide for all issues in divorce, including property and custody settlements.

Mediators are not judges, and they aren't hired to take one particular side of an argument as lawyers do. They are impartial: their goals focus on helping both parties identify what they want and need, clarifying communication and defusing potentially negative interactions, and creating formal agreements between the opposing parties. In recognizing mediation as a legal and effective way to facilitate divorces at minimum cost to the state and individuals, Massachusetts divorce law provides citizens of the state with an empowering alternative to the typical divorce trial.

What to Expect in Mediation

The reasons Massachusetts divorce law allows for mediation are highly practical: mediation, if undertaken soon enough, can prevent costly court proceedings. People who use mediators to reach agreement tend to spend less money and less time than those who hire lawyers and go to court. Probably the best reason to use mediation is that the process is designed to minimize conflict, helping people create a less-hostile, even civilized, post-marriage relationship.

You've probably heard that ours is a litigious society, and that may be true in part because most Americans don't have a clear idea of what mediation can provide. Mediation tends to be less formal than legal proceedings but definitely more formal than a chat with a concerned mutual friend. In fact, mediation tends to follow a format that is laid out with an initial explanation of rules and goals by the mediator, followed by discussion by the mediator and couple, and the mediator alone with each individual in the couple. Once the goals of each individual have been clarified, the process move on into negotiation and settlement. Once both partners agree to the terms, the Divorce Agreement is drawn up .(Some mediators only provide a Memorandum: a full-service mediator can also create the state-approved Divorce Agreement.) The sole court date is set for presenting the signed and notarized agreement to the divorce court judge.

Especially when considering divorce mediation, it is better to act sooner than later. Mediation has the potential to help couples create compromises that work for both people, eliminating the win-lose mentality attendant on formal legal proceedings. Some people may believe that, if they can only tell their side of the story, a divorce court judge will side with them, but that usually turns out to be wishful thinking. Mediators do listen to both sides of the story, and the fact that they aren't authorized to make judgments means that a mediator will never make a judgment against you (or your spouse). Sometimes, just removing the win-lose concept frees individuals to think about what they truly want and need, minimizing hurt and resentment. Costs are also minimized: when a couple hires a mediator, they are employing one professional rather than two lawyers.

Massachusetts Divorce Law and Mediation Fees

The cost difference between litigation and mediation can be substantial. Lawyer's and mediator's fees can both run from $200-$500 per hour, however, couples hire one mediator rather than two attorneys, resulting in a huge cost savings. This on top of the relative efficiency of the process result in total costs for a mediated divorce that are a fraction of a litigated divorce. A recent Parade Magazine article cited that the average cost for litigated divorces are $20,000 to $50,000, while mediated divorces are 10% to 25% of the cost.

Aside from the lower financial costs, mediation is particularly empowering because the mediator has no authority to impose judgments or decisions on either party. The only way settlement is reached in mediation is when both parties are in agreement about what they propose to do. The mediator, once having assisted the couple with creating their agreement, can formulate the official documents that, according to Massachusetts divorce law,constitute the legal and binding agreements between them.

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