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Attorney
Julia Rueschemeyer

Massachusetts Divorce Mediation Online

Online Divorce Mediation with MA Attorney via Zoom
All Massachusetts courts and counties, including Middlesex and Worcester

 

Getting divorced and resolving family law issues involves transitions that are not easy. I am an experienced Massachusetts divorce mediator (over 1000 cases mediated) and divorce lawyer, and I will guide you through these transitions with compassion, treating you and your concerns with respect. We will work together, one issue at a time, to create solutions that work for you and your family and ensure that the focus stays on the healthiest process and outcome for you and your children.

 

I mediate Massachusetts divorces remotely, or virtually, via live video conference or telephone for ALL Massachusetts courts and counties. You and your spouse do not need to come to my office or go to public offices during the corona virus pandemic. If you have a computer or smartphone, I will mediate your divorce online via Zoom. If you need a Middlesex County divorce mediator, Worcester divorce mediator,  Suffolk County divorce mediator, or divorce mediation in Boston, I am as close to you as your computer or smartphone.

 

After you call me and we speak on the telephone, you will have access to my calendar to schedule a 2.5 hour Zoom meeting. This live video conferencing platform allows us to see each other and exchange documents in real time. I typically get you drafts of all court documents within 1-2 days of this first Zoom meeting.

 

When you are ready, after a second meeting, I generate final versions of all court documents and the divorce agreement and email or postal mail them to you for signatures; you can then file them with the court by mail. Your brief court divorce hearing will also be held over Zoom or telephone.

 

I treat all parties in negotiations with respect. My goal is not to create winners and losers but to use my creativity, my empathy, and my knowledge of the law to create win-win solutions to the practical problems posed by divorce in a cost-effective way. This approach to reaching divorce agreements avoids the high costs, delays, and interpersonal conflict and stress that are inevitable in litigation through family law courts. As a Springfield divorce attorney mediator, I prepare the legal papers and Massachusetts divorce forms reflecting your decisions so that a judge can approve the separation agreement and issue the divorce decree.

 

 

If you have been served with divorce papers, but you think you and your spouse can work together outside of court, your case can be converted into an uncontested case, and I can serve as your MA divorce mediator. I do not take any DCF cases.

Call to learn more about divorce mediation and uncontested divorce.

call_section_icon_imageCALL JULIA 413-253-7484

Frequently Asked Divorce Mediation Questions

What is divorce mediation?

Divorce mediation is when a couple hire a neutral third party to help them come to an agreement on the issues that must be addressed in divorce: parenting plan, division of property, and child support/alimony. Typically, the mediator then prepares all court paperwork based on these agreements and guides the couple through the filing process.

 

What are the advantages of divorce mediation?

Divorce mediation is faster, less expensive, and less stressful than fighting in court. In mediation, you are in control of the process and can discuss the issues that are most important to you and come up with creative solutions. In a litigated, contested case, the process is controlled by lawyers, judges, and court rules, and you will mostly be a spectator.

 

How long does divorce mediation take?

Most mediators take 2-5 sessions across 1-3 months to mediate a divorce case. I am efficient in mediating agreements and producing all court documents, so many couples I work with are ready to file all court papers within several weeks of our initial meeting. I usually accomplish this in two mediation sessions. In urgent cases, I have been able to produce all court documents, ready for filing, in as little as 24 hours. During COVID, couples have been waiting 2 to 4+ months, after they file, for the court hearing where the judge signs the agreement.

 

 

If I mediate my divorce, do I still have to appear in court?

Yes (although not necessarily in person). For uncontested divorce in Massachusetts, there is a 15-minute hearing with a judge where the judge asks you if you have read and understood the agreement and if you agree to it. During COVID these hearings are done by Zoom and telephone. Even without COVID it is possible to request an appearance by telephone (and going forward, presumably, Zoom).

 

 

How much does divorce mediation cost in Massachusetts?

A survey of attorney mediator websites suggests a range from $2000 to $5000. Typical hourly rates range from $250 to $500. Many people tell me that they appreciate the fact that I offer 100% transparent flat fee pricing on this website and that they find me to be an affordable divorce mediator.

 

 

Who pays for the mediation?

The couple decide this. An advantage of explicitly sharing the cost is that it gives both parties a financial stake in the process, which can encourage commitment to its success. At an abstract, legal level, the cost is always shared because all money in the marriage belongs to both of you. Even if you have kept your finances separate, by the fact of being married, the money belongs to both of you, even if it is in an account with only your name.

 

 

Who files the court documents when the divorce mediator completes them?

You file them, but this is less complicated than it sounds. I attach stickies to the documents to show you where to sign them, you sign them in front of a notary, and then you put them in the envelope that I have stamped and addressed to send them to court. That’s it.

 

 

If I do divorce mediation, can I still consult with my own attorney?

Yes. As a mediator, I am a neutral party. You are always welcome to consult with an attorney. A logical time to do this is after the drafting of the separation (divorce) agreement, so the attorney has something to review. About 5% of my mediation clients consult with an outside attorney.

 

 

Is divorce mediation legally binding?

Nothing we do in mediation is legally binding until a judge signs the divorce agreement making it a court order. This frees you to talk openly and try out ideas in mediation. You are not committed to anything until the judge signs the agreement. In practice, most couples are relieved to get a draft of their separation agreement from the mediator and begin following it immediately, even before they file the court documents. This gives them a path forward that allows them to focus on the future, not the past.

 

 

If mediation doesn’t work for me, can I hire an attorney and fight in court?

Yes. You do not give up any rights by doing mediation. You are always welcome to leave mediation and pursue a contested case in court. This occurs in about 5% of my cases. Because mediation is so inexpensive and efficient, it always makes sense to try mediation first, before pursuing a contested case. The only thing you can lose by trying mediation first is the relatively modest mediation fees.

 

 

What if my spouse refuses to mediate?

You cannot mediate unless both spouses agree to try it. You do not have to be in agreement on issues in order to try mediation—the mediator will help you come to a fair agreement.

 

 

Do I need a divorce mediator near me?

While people have traditionally met with divorce mediators face-to-face, we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that divorce mediation works very well through Zoom. Because divorces are governed by state law, all courts in Massachusetts follow the same divorce laws and use the same family law forms. This means that you do not need to Google “best divorce mediator near me” or “divorce mediators in my area”; you can simply find the best divorce mediator, state-wide, who is an expert in Massachusetts family law. Mediators in Western Massachusetts tend to be less expensive than Boston-area mediators.

 

 

Are there different types, or styles, of divorce mediation?

Yes. Divorce mediators range along a continuum from relatively active and directive to relatively passive and facilitative. A more directive, active, or evaluative mediator is more likely to explain to a couple the range of outcomes that might occur if an issue were litigated in court. A more active mediator will suggest options, based on their experience with past clients, that might help a couple keep moving forward toward an agreement. The emphasis is on achieving an agreement that works for both parties. A more facilitative mediator will give less direction to the mediation and focus more on the process. More of the responsibility for identifying issues and formulating proposals comes from the parties themselves. A facilitative mediator tends to believe that a couple, given time and support, can reach an effective agreement with relatively less direction from the mediator. My style is relatively active and directive.

 

 

I have started a contested divorce case in court. Can I change it to mediation?

Yes. When you file your uncontested divorce (1A) papers from mediation, they replace your contested (1B) papers in the same case file with the same docket number, and your case is then treated as an uncontested divorce. Many couples switch to mediation when they realize how long and expensive contested cases are.

 

 

Can we mediate even if we have already hired lawyers?

Yes. You simply tell your lawyers to put your case on hold and not take any action while you try mediation. If you like, your lawyer can review the separation (divorce) agreement that comes out of mediation. If you resolve your case through mediation, you ask the divorce lawyer to return the remainder of the retainer, the deposit you put down with them.

 

 

What is the difference between a divorce mediator and a divorce lawyer?

A divorce lawyer is a licensed member of the bar. Some divorce lawyers specialize in divorce mediation and identify themselves as divorce mediators or attorney mediators. In Massachusetts, there is no required certification or licensing for divorce mediators, so people who are not lawyers or specialists can still call themselves divorce mediators. You might therefore want to use a mediator who is also an attorney.

 

 

Is mediation the same as arbitration?

No. In arbitration, the parties agree ahead of time to have an arbitrator act like a judge and make a binding decision for them. In mediation, the mediator guides the couple in coming to an agreement, but all decisions are made by the couple. No decisions are imposed on the couple.

 

 

Is divorce mediation always the best way to get divorced?

No. It is probably better to skip mediation and go directly to an attorney to represent you if: there is domestic violence or restraining orders; there are power imbalances where a spouse is unable to resist bullying from the other spouse; or a spouse is likely to hide income and assets from the other spouse.

 

 

Are conversations during divorce mediation confidential?

Yes. Clients sign a mediation agreement before we begin. This specifies that everything discussed during mediation sessions is confidential. This encourages open and productive conversation about the practical parenting and financial issues that must be figured out when you divorce.

 

 

What is the difference between divorce mediation and marital mediation?

These are opposites. Marital mediation is like couples counselling—it is meant to help a couple stay married. Divorce mediation is specifically for helping a couple to end their marriage.

 

 

What questions should I ask a potential divorce mediator?

What percent of your business is divorce mediation? How many years have you been doing it? Approximately how many cases have you done? Is your style relatively active and directive or relatively facilitative? If either spouse has a pension, you should check if the mediator understands pension basics: ask if the mediator knows the difference between immediate offset and deferred distribution; QDRO and DRO; bright-line or relative-time division; and shared-interest and separate-interest pensions.

 

 

What is the difference between legal separation and divorce in Massachusetts?

Spouses can live separately, but there is no “legal separation” status in Massachusetts family law. You are either married or divorced. It is, however, possible to be married, live separately, and receive “separate support” for spousal support or child support. This requires filing a Complaint for Separate Support.

If one of us had an affair, how does that affect the divorce?

Although it can be emotionally painful and it can devastate a relationship, an affair matters very little for the terms of the divorce . The one exception is if a spouse secretly spent thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on an affair. That counts as “marital waste” and can be calculated into the eventual division of marital assets.

I want to get divorced, but my spouse doesn’t. Can my spouse prevent us from getting divorced?

No. Your spouse can, however, refuse to work together on the terms of the divorce. If that happens, you would have to file for divorce and have your spouse served. Unfortunately, this would mean a contested divorce process, which is long and expensive and tends to generate new animosity between you. Faced with that prospect, many spouses eventually cooperate to develop a separation agreement and file an uncontested divorce.

During marriage, we kept our paychecks, bank accounts, and credit cards separate. How does this affect the division of assets and property if we get divorced?

In Massachusetts, all of your assets and debts are considered marital and belong to both of you. It doesn’t matter whose name is on the accounts or credit cards or who paid which bills during the marriage. That being said, in uncontested divorces, many couples choose to divide property in ways that fit with their assumptions about what belongs to whom. This is possible as long as the overall division is “fair and equitable.”

How can I find my case docket number or find out other information about a family court case?

Massachusetts has made basic court records available online. Download these instructions to see how to access family court records.

How can I get information if the courts are closed to people during Covid?
As of September, 2020, a number of courts are open part of the week to help you with questions and forms and filings through Zoom. Simply click a Zoom link, below, and get face-to-face help over video chat. Each county court has its own hours and Zoom link:

​MA Family Law Services

As a divorce lawyer in Springfield, Massachusetts and Amherst, I specialize in mediation, uncontested divorce, and out-of-court divorce negotiations. I will work with you to arrive at solutions regarding child support, parenting plans, property division, debt division, and spousal support issues. I will help you to make thoughtful transitions that ensure financial stability, secure parenting plans for children, and legal closure on difficult emotional issues. If you need a lawyer to fight for you in court, call me and I will refer you to a family law litigator who can represent you in your divorce or other family law matter. I invite you to explore this website to learn more about me, about Northampton divorce mediation, about how divorce works and different kinds of divorce processes in Massachusetts, and to read client reviews of my work.

  • Divorce Mediation

    As a divorce mediator, I act as a neutral facilitator to help you and your spouse come to agreement on the terms of divorce without battling in court.

  • QDRO Preparation

    I prepare QDROs and DROs only for my own divorce mediation clients. A QDRO (“Qualified Domestic Relations Order”) is a legal order, entered as part of a divorce or legal separation, that is required in order to split ownership of a retirement plan to give the divorced spouse his or her share of the asset or pension plan.

  • Pension Division Consulting in Divorce

    For many couples, a state pension is their largest asset, but many divorce lawyers do not fully understand how pensions work. I do hourly consulting to make make sure you understand your pension options and rights in divorce.

  • Collaborative Law Divorce

    In collaborative law divorce, your spouse’s attorney and I sign a binding contract to drop out of the case if we cannot come to an agreement. This aligns our financial interests with your interest in reaching an agreement without the time, costs, and stress of court litigation.

  • Uncontested Divorce

    In an uncontested divorce, a couple come to agreement on the terms of the divorce outside of court, and present these terms to a judge who approves them in a very brief hearing.

  • Family Law Consulting and Document Review

  • Visitation/Parenting Plans

  • Child Support

    Child support is money paid from one parent to another to financially support children when the parents no longer live together. The State of Massachusetts uses a mathematical formula to determine the amount of child support.

  • Alimony

    Alimony is court-ordered payment of monetary support from one spouse to the other for a period of time after divorce. The 2011 Alimony Reform Act gives guidelines for the amount and duration of general term alimony. In cases with child support, there is only alimony if gross family income exceeds $250,000. You can calculate MA general term alimony here.

  • Marital Property Division

    Division of marital assets in MA must be “equitable”, which means “fair”. This can empower you, as a couple, to divide property in the ways that work best for you, as long as you both find it fair, even if it is not 50-50.

  • Prenuptial Agreements

  • Postnuptial Agreements

Flowchart of the divorce process

The flowchart below gives an overview of different processes for completing a divorce in Massachusetts. In 95% of divorce cases in Massachusetts, the final terms of the divorce are agreed upon in a separation agreement that is written up outside of court and presented to a judge who approves it in a 20-minute hearing. There are very different routes, however, for reaching this separation agreement and brief hearing. In many cases, there are court actions–litigation or “contested divorce” processes–before a couple agree on the terms of the divorce in a separation agreement.

These court actions add delays, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of costs, and interpersonal stress to the process of reaching a separation agreement. As the chart illustrates, the only way to guarantee an uncontested divorce, with no expensive, antagonistic, and time-consuming court actions, is through divorce mediation, a collaborative law divorce process, or out-of-court divorce negotiations. Attorney Julia Rueschemeyer specializes in these forms of divorce, which avoid high costs, delays, and court legal battles. You can learn more about mediation, collaborative law divorce, and differences between fault, no-fault, contested, and uncontested divorce  on other pages of this website.

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What Our Clients Are Saying

How to File for Divorce in Massachusetts

If you and your partner are planning to get divorced, you can do it together. This is sometimes referred to as “uncontested divorce” or “amicable divorce,” and it is a form of no-fault divorce.

You must file all papers with the appropriate Massachusetts Probate Court (Family Law Court) and pay a fee of $215.

1.

Sign and file a “Joint Petition for Divorce.” (Divorce court officials sometimes refer to this as the “1A form” and this divorces process as a “1A Marriage Dissolution.”) This is a divorce form that a) states when you were married and last lived together, b) identifies minor or dependent children of the marriage, c) identifies any family law court actions already in process, d) suggests an approximate date when the marriage irretrievably broke down (when it effectively ended), e) requests a divorce, and f) asks the judge to approve your “Separation Agreement” (see below).

2.

Sign and file a “Joint Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown.” In this divorce form you confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

3.

File a certified copy of your Marriage Certificate.

4.

File a “Report of Absolute Divorce or Annulment.” This is a form that helps the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics to record the divorce.

5.

Fill out and file Financial Statements. These statements document a) income, b) assets (house, cars, pensions, etc.), c) living expenses, and d) debts. There is a Long Form version if your annual income is over $75,000, and a Short Form version if your annual income is below $75,000. These forms disclose financial information that is necessary for coming to an agreement on Division of Marital Assets, Child Support, and Alimony (see Separation Agreement, below).

6.

File a “Military Affidavit.” On this form you say whether you are in the military service or not.

7.

If you have children under 18, also file:

 

An “Affidavit of Care and Custody”. This form identifies any previous or ongoing child custody court proceedings or actions.

 

A “2018 Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.” This form is used to calculate child support according to Massachusetts child support laws. You can calculate your child support right now with the free 2018 Massachusetts Child Support Calculator on this site and then click a button to download the results into a court-ready Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

A “Findings and Determinations for Child Support and Post-secondary Education Form. “This is a form that documents reasons why your child support amounts might deviate from the presumptive (“expected” or “standard”) amount.

A “Parent Education Certificate”, which confirms that you have attended a “Parent Education Program” for parents of minor children. These education programs are required by Massachusetts divorce law and focus on how to co-parent during and after divorce in a way that is in the best interest of your children.

8.

File a notarized “Separation Agreement” signed by both parties. This is a written contract between spouses that addresses all issues related to:Property division (How are property and debts to be divided? Will one of you keep the house or will you sell the house? How will your retirement accounts be divided? What happens with credit card and student loan debts?)

Child Support (If applicable, how much support, for how long, and from which spouse to which spouse?)

Child Custody and Visitation/Parenting Plan (Legal custody: Will you have joint legal custody or will one of you have sole legal custody? Physical Custody: What is the schedule for where the child spends particular days, nights, and holidays?)

Alimony or spousal support (If applicable, how much and for how many years?)

Health Insurance and Life Insurance

Filing taxes and dependent deductions

Pets

There is no specific Massachusetts form for your separation agreement, but in the past several probate courts have made available templates that a committed person could use for a do-it-yourself divorce or pro se divorce. You can see the first 4 pages of a Massachusetts separation agreement form, or template, for divorce with no children here, created by Worcester County probate court, or the first 4 pages of a Massachusetts separation agreement with minor children form, or template, here.

After filing all your divorce forms and fee, you will receive a court date by mail. The uncontested divorce hearing usually takes about 15 minutes in court. After the judge grants your divorce at the hearing, there is a 120 day waiting period before the divorce decree (divorce judgment) becomes final.

Already divorced and need proof of divorce? Use this Request for Copies form to get a copy of your Certificate of Divorce Absolute.

Download this post-divorce checklist to remind you of other post-divorce tasks, such as changing beneficiaries on retirement accounts and insurance policies.

As a Western Massachusetts divorce mediator and family law attorney in Springfield, I am happy to speak with you about divorce mediation, uncontested divorce, and legal document review.

Where do I file for divorce in Massachusetts Probate Court?

You file for divorce in the county where you last lived together. If you have both moved out of the county, you can file in a MA county where one of you now lives.

For: Agawam, Brimfield, Chicopee, East Longmeadow, Hampden, Holland, Holyoke, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Monson, Palmer, Southwick, Springfield, West Springfield, Westfield, or Wilbraham You should file in Hampden County Probate Court in Springfield, MA

For: Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Hatfield, Huntington, Northampton, South Hadley, Southampton, Ware, Westhampton, or Williamsburg You should file in Hampshire County Probate Court in Northampton, MA

For: Bernardston, Buckland, Deerfield, Greenfield, Montague, Northfield, Orange, Shelburne, Sunderland, or Turners Falls You should file in Franklin County Probate Court in Greenfield, MA

For: Athol, Auburn, Charlton, Dudley, Fitchburg, Gardner, Grafton, Holden, Leicester, Leominster, Millbury, Milford, Northbridge, Northborough, Oxford, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southbridge, Spencer, Sterling, Sturbridge, Templeton, Webster, Westborough, Westminster, Winchendon, or Worcester You should file in Worcester County Probate Court in Worcester, MA

For: Adams, Becket, Cheshire, Dalton, Great Barrington, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Lee, Lenox, North Adams, Pittsfield, Sheffield, Stockbridge, or Williamstown You should file in Berkshire County Probate Court in Pittsfield, MA

For: Acton, Ashby, Ashland, Ayer, Bedford, Billerica, Boxborough, Burlington, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Dracut, Dunstable, Framingham, Groton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hudson, Lincoln, Littleton, Lowell, Marlborough, Maynard, Natick, North Reading, Pepperrell, Reading, Sherborn, Shirley, Stow, Sudbury, Tewksbury, Townsend, Tyngsborough, Wayland, Westford, and Wilmington.  You should file in Middlesex County Probate Court-North in Lowell, MA

For: Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge, Everett, Lexington, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Newton, Somerville, Stoneham, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Weston, Winchester, and Woburn. You should file in Middlesex County Probate Court-South in Woburn, MA

For: Brockton, Plymouth, Bridgewater, Marshfield, Middleborough, Hingham, and Wareham. You should file in Plymouth Probate and Family Court in Plymouth, MA

For: Boston, Brighton, Charlestown, Chelsea, Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Revere, Roslindale, South Boston, and Winthrop. You should file in Suffolk County Probate Court in Boston, MA.

For: Barnstable, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Sandwich, and Bourne. You should file in Barnstable County Probate Court in Barnstable, MA.

For: Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, Dartmouth, North Attleborough, Mansfield, and Easton. You should file in Bristol County Probate Court in Taunton, MA or Bristol County Probate Court in New Bedford, MA.

For: Abington, Bridgewater, Brockton, Carver, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Hingham, Hull, Kingston, Lakeville, Marion, Marshfield, Mattapoisett, Middleboro, Norwell, Pembroke , Plymouth, Plympton, Rochester, Rockland, Scituate, Wareham, West Bridgewater, and Whitman. You should file in Plymouth County Probate Court in Brockton, MA.

For: All locations in Marthas Vineyard. You should file in Dukes County Probate Court in Edgartown, MA

For: Lynn, Lawrence, Haverhill, Peabody, Methuen, Salem, Beverly, Andover, Gloucester, North Andover, Saugus, Danvers, Marblehead, and Newburyport. You should file in Essex County Probate Court in Salem, MA.

For: Quincy, Brookline, Weymouth, Braintree, Randolph, Franklin, Needham, Norwood, Wellesly, Stoughton, Milton, and Dedham. You should file in  Norfolk County Probate Court in Canton, MA.

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