Getting divorced and resolving family law issues involves transitions that are not easy. I am an experienced Massachusetts divorce mediator (over 1600 cases mediated) and divorce mediation lawyer, and I will guide you through these transitions with compassion. I will treat 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.
My business is dedicated 100% to divorce mediation in Massachusetts. I mediatedivorces remotely via live video conference for ALL Massachusetts cities, towns, and courts. You and your spouse do not need to come to my office for divorce mediation. If you have a computer or smartphone, I will mediate your divorce online via Zoom. Regardless of whether you need a Middlesex County divorce mediator; a Worcester divorce mediator; a Cambridge 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 to begin mediation, or a free 20-minute consult on Zoom with your spouse. This live video conferencing platform allows us to see each other and exchange documents in real time. I email you drafts of all court documents within 1-2 days of this first Zoom mediation meeting.
When you are ready, after a second meeting, I generate final versions of all court documents and the divorce agreement and postal mail them to you for signatures. You then file them with the court by mail. Your 15-minute court divorce hearing can be in person or on Zoom.
As a divorce mediation lawyer, 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 Boston 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, I can convert your case into an uncontested case and serve as your MA divorce mediation attorney.
What is divorce mediation?
What are the advantages of divorce mediation?
If I mediate my divorce, do I still have to appear in court?
How much does divorce mediation cost in Massachusetts?
Who pays for the mediation?
Who files the court documents when the divorce mediator completes them?
If I do divorce mediation, can I still consult with my own attorney?
Is divorce mediation legally binding?
If mediation doesn’t work for me, can I hire an attorney and fight in court?
What if my spouse refuses to mediate?
Do I need a “divorce mediator near me”?
Are there different types, or styles, of divorce mediation?
I have started a contested divorce case in court. Can I change it to mediation?
Can we mediate even if we have already hired divorce lawyers?
What is the difference between a divorce mediator and a divorce lawyer?
Is mediation the same as arbitration?
Is divorce mediation always the best way to get divorced?
Are conversations during divorce mediation confidential?
What is the difference between divorce mediation and marital mediation?
What questions should I ask a potential divorce mediation lawyer?
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. A “separation mediator” in MA is really just a “divorce mediator.” 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, some spouses who resist the divorce 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 judge finds the overall division to be “fair and equitable.”
What financial documents do I need as I prepare for divorce mediation?
Consult this divorce mediation checklist page for a list of financial documents and statements you will need to gather.
How can I find my case docket number or find out other information about my family law mediation 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 about my divorce mediation case from the MA probate courts?
Starting during COVID, a number of courts began to offer Zoom office hours for help you with questions about divorce forms and filings. (I have found the clerks to be more helpful over Zoom than on the telephone.) Simply click a Zoom link, below, and get face-to-face help over video chat. Each MA county probate court that offers Zoom has its own hours (which they update from time-to-time) and unique Zoom link:
Divorce mediation is the process where a neutral third party helps a divorcing couple to have conversations and reach agreement on all issues that must be addressed in divorce. The couple themselves make the decisions, e.g., when each parent takes care of a child or which spouse might keep a marital home.
The fact that spouses themselves—rather than lawyers or judges—play the central role in creating the agreement is the distinguishing characteristic of mediation. No terms of the agreement are imposed on either party—both parties agree to all terms.
This results in divorce agreements that both parties are more likely to uphold after divorce, since they have created the terms themselves. It is enormously beneficial for families with children, as the process models and practices the communication and cooperation that ex-spouses will need to co-parent after divorce.
The divorce mediator guides discussion of the “big three” issues:
1) Parenting plan (for couples with children under 18)—Which of us takes care of the kids when? What is our parenting schedule? How will we do holidays?
2) Division of property—In general, assets that are acquired during marriage and debts that are incurred during marriage belong to both spouses. When you divorce, you disentangle from each other financially. Each asset or debt is assigned to one or the other of the parties, or divided. In Massachusetts, the law says that this division of marital assets must be “fair and equitable”.
3) Support. Support, which comes in two forms–Child Support and Alimony–are payments made from one ex-spouse to another for a certain period of time after marriage.
In addition to these big three, you may discuss and come to agreement on issues related to health care coverage, life insurance, taxes, pets, and the timing of events such as moving out or putting a house up for sale.
These discussions are guided by the divorce mediation attorney, who has expertise in family law and can articulate and educate the couple about the issues that need to be discussed and agreed upon. The family law mediator makes time for each spouse to be heard and empathizes with the emotions of each spouse but also gently guides the discussion to resolving the many practical decisions that have to be made . The divorce separation mediator remains neutral, not favoring one spouse over the other.
The divorce attorney mediator then takes the couple’s decisions and puts them into the legal document formats required by family law courts. The only court hearing is a brief one in which a judge reviews the documents and confirms that the couple understand and agree to the decisions they have made. The judge does not change the terms of the agreement or impose any terms. When the judge signs the agreement, the terms of the agreement (which were created by the couple) become a court order with legal force.
In simplest terms, a divorce mediator facilitates conversations between divorcing spouses so that they can come to agreement on all issues that have to be addressed in divorce. Attorney mediators then draft the legal documents, incorporating all your decisions, so that a family court judge can approve the agreement and issue a divorce decree. This simple description, however, veils the complexity of what top divorce mediation lawyers do in their mediation sessions. Successful divorce mediators must simultaneously do three things:
1) They must recognize and validate the emotions of people who are experiencing conflict with each other at the same time that they facilitate practical decision making by the couple.
A divorce mediation session cannot consist of just managing conflict and emotion—that would be for a marriage therapist. At the same time, a divorce mediator cannot just mechanically bring up practicalities such as whether a spouse will stay on the other’s health insurance after the divorce.
The best divorce mediators recognize the humanity of each person and show empathy for each party’s experience while picking the right moments to reach decisions on practical matters that will be recorded in the separation agreement. And no matter the level of empathy for each client, the mediator must remain strictly neutral about the outcomes that clients agree on, not advocating for one or the other.
2) The best divorce mediators know MA divorce and family law and can explain it to clients in everyday language, rather than legal terms. It is only through knowing the types and scope of decisions that need to be made—whether financial or regarding children—that couples can make the informed decisions that will be the basis of their separation agreement.
An attorney mediator who can explain the laws and common parameters for legally enforceable separation agreements creates conditions for a more level playing field in mediation. Because the mediator cannot advocate for one person’s position or the other’s, a power imbalance between spouses can lead to an agreement that favors the more powerful spouse.
If MA family laws and common legal practices are made clear to the couple–e.g., that property division must be fair and equitable–it can empower the less powerful spouse by giving them clear grounds to speak up for themeselves.
3) Top Massachusetts divorce mediation lawyers explain financial concepts and financial numbers in ways that that clients can understand. Spouses often have different levels of understanding of their finances and of basic financial concepts. The financial mediator must educate clients on the concepts that are central to their case. If the divorce mediation lawyer does not do that, then a more financially sophisticated partner in the couple can take advantage of the less knowledgeable spouse.
The flowchart below gives an overview of different processes for completing a divorce in Massachusetts and the role of mediation in these processes.
The two basic types of divorce in Massachusetts are “contested divorce” (also known as a “1B divorce”) and “uncontested divorce” (also known as a “1A divorce”). (There is also a very rare kind of divorce—“fault divorce”—which is a relic from pre-1976 divorce processes.)
In a contested, or 1B divorce, a couple cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, and they are asking a judge to decide and order the terms. This kind of divorce involves complicated court procedures and multiple court hearings. It usually requires that each spouse hire an attorney to negotiate these procedures. The overall process is long, often a couple of years or more until divorce. It is also expensive, costing $5000-$10,000 each for relatively simple and non-adversarial cases and $10,000 or more for more complicated or adversarial ones.
In an uncontested, or 1A divorce, the couple come to agreement on all terms of the divorce, before submitting documents to the court. This is what is done in divorce mediation. These agreements are written into the separation agreement (the divorce agreement).
There is a single hearing, often about 10-15 minutes, in which a family court judge asks the spouses if they understand and agree to the terms of the divorce in the separation agreement. The judge then signs the separation agreement and it becomes a court order. By their nature, uncontested divorces are faster, less expensive, and less adversarial than contested divorces.
In the divorce decision tree flow chart below, red blocks indicates processes that are the slowest, most expensive, and most adversarial. Green blocks indicate faster, less expensive, and less adversarial processes. Divorce mediation is an ideal way to do an uncontested divorce in Massachusetts because of its speed, affordability, efficiency, and success rate.
You can learn more about collaborative law divorce, and details of fault, no-fault, contested, and uncontested divorce on other pages of this website.
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. The couple, however, determine the speed with which they proceed, and they can take as much time as they like before filing. If they wait more than a few months, their financial statements will have to be updated before their hearing with the judge.
COVID backlogs have been clearing, but couples still have to wait 1-3+ months, after they file, for the court hearing where the judge signs the agreement. Massachusetts also has a 120-day waiting period, the nisi period, after your hearing, before your divorce becomes final or “absolute.” The terms of your divorce are set when the judge signs the divorce agreement, and you must begin following these terms immediately, but you are technically still married for 120 days after the judge signs the agreement.
Typical divorce mediation serve in MA costs range from $1500 to $5000, with higher costs possible in more contentious or financially complicated ones or agreements dividing high assets. Divorces with no children, low assets, and similar spousal levels of income tend to be less expensive. Negotiating parenting plans, child support, alimony, and the division of significant or complicated financial assets increases the cost. Costs in the greater Boston area tend to be higher than in Western Massachusetts. I complete the majority of my cases for $1900 to $3200.
No! And Yes! This is a trick question because “legal advice” has two entirely different meanings.
For divorce lawyers who litigate, “legal advice” is a technical term with a very special meaning. It refers only to the advice given by a licensed lawyer to a client with whom they have established an attorney-client relationship. It involves an attorney using expert legal knowledge or education to give strategic advice to a client that the client can use to his/her advantage, e.g., to avoid conviction on a criminal charge or to prevail in a contested divorce case. From this perspective, divorce mediators do not and cannot give legal advice. They are working with a couple as a neutral third party, so they do not enter into an attorney-client relationship with one party and give them legal recommendations to get a strategic advantage over the other party.
In everyday usage, however, people use the term “legal advice” to mean what lawyers call “legal information,” and family law mediators can and should give legal information to their clients! Such information can include how to calculate child support, what county a divorce should be filed in, whether the state is a “community property” state, at what age children are considered emancipated, whether alimony is automatically presumed, what information goes in a separation agreement, etc. Without this information, a couple do not know what issues need to be understood, discussed, and addressed in order to make the decisions required for a legal divorce. From this perspective, divorce mediation lawyers–while remaining neutral–should give abundant “legal information.”
If your divorce attorney mediator declines to give you “legal information,” claiming that they cannot give you “legal advice,” you should find a new mediator.
If you and your partner are planning to get divorced, you can do it together. This is an “uncontested divorce,” which people refer to informally as an “amicable divorce” or “friendly divorce”.
You must file all papers with the appropriate Massachusetts Probate Court (Family Law Court) and pay a fee of $215.
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).
Sign and file a “Joint Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown.” In this divorce form you confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
File an original or certified copy of your Marriage Certificate.
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.
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). These forms are very poorly designed and confusing.
Maybe file a “Military Affidavit.” On this form you say whether you are in the military or not. This form is irrelevant in 1A divorces, and it is irrelevant if neither of you have ever been in the military, but some courts may still want it! But if you file it and they don’t want it, they might hold up your case a little bit!
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 “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 2021 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.
(For uncontested cases filed after July 11, 2021, you no longer need to take a parenting education class or submit a parenting education class certificate.)
File a notarized “Separation Agreement” signed by both parties. This is a written contract between spouses that addresses issues including:
There is no specific Massachusetts form for your separation agreement MA, 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 pdf 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, or “absolute.” You can use this Divorce Nisi Waiting Period Calculator to see the exact date that you will no longer be married.
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 Boston divorce mediator and family law mediator, I am happy to speak with you about divorce mediation and uncontested divorce.
To file a mediated or uncontested divorce, you file for divorce in the county where you last lived together, as long as at least one of you still lives there. If you have both moved out of the county, you can file in a MA county where one of you now lives. If neither of you lives in MA, you cannot file here.
For: Monson, Wilbraham Longmeadow, Hampden, Holyoke, Springfield, Holland, Southwick, Agawam, Brimfield, Chicopee, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Ludlow, Palmer, West Westfield, or Springfield. You should file in Hampden County Probate Court in Springfield, MA
For: Amherst, Williamsburg Huntington, Westhampton, Hatfield, Southampton, South Hadley, Easthampton, Northampton, Belchertown, Hadley, Ware, or Granby. You should file in Hampshire County Probate Court in Northampton, MA
For: Shelburne, Greenfield, Buckland, Orange, Bernardston, Deerfield, Turners Falls, Sunderland, Montague, or Northfield. You should file in Franklin County Probate Court in Greenfield, MA
For: Worcester, Shrewsbury, Leominster, Fitchburg, Oxford, Sterling, Templeton, Dudley, Grafton, Northbridge, Leicester, Athol, Gardner, Auburn, Milford, Rutland, Sturbridge, Northborough, Webster, Winchendon, Charlton, Fitchburg, Holden, Westborough, Millbury, Southbridge, Spencer, or Westminster. You should file in Worcester County Probate Court in Worcester, MA
For: Sheffield, Lanesborough, North Adams, Cheshire, Dalton, Lenox, Lee, Pittsfield, Hinsdale, Great Barrington, Williamstown Stockbridge, or Becket. You should file in Berkshire County Probate Court in Pittsfield, MA
For: Natick, Stow, Sherborn, Dracut, Bedford, Chelmsford, Pepperell, Wayland, Ashby, Holliston, Burlington, Carlisle, Townsend, Ashland, Wilmington Hopkinton, North Hudson, Westford, Maynard, Ayer, Littleton, Acton, Tewksbury, Boxborough, Dunstable, Concord, Marlborough, Lowell, Tyngsborough, Sudbury, Shirley, North Reading, Billerica, Reading, Lincoln, Framingham, or Groton. You should file in Middlesex County Probate Court-North in Lowell, MA
For: Cambridge, Watertown, Belmont, Medford, Lexington, Woburn Wakefield, Arlington, and Newton, Somerville, Winchester, Melrose Waltham, Everett, Weston, Stoneham, or Malden. You should file in Middlesex County Probate Court-South in Woburn, MA
For: Marshfield, Middleborough, Wareham Hingham, Plymouth, Bridgewater, & Brockton. You should file in Plymouth Probate and Family Court in Plymouth, MA
For: East Boston, Brighton, South Boston, Revere, Boston, Roslindale, Charlestown, Winthrop, Dorchester, Boston, Hyde Park, Chelsea, and/orJamaica Plain. You should file in Suffolk County Probate Court in Boston, MA.
For: Yarmouth, Falmouth, Barnstable, Bourne and Sandwich. You should file in Barnstable County Probate Court in Barnstable, MA.
For: Attleborough, Taunton, Easton, North Attleboro, Mansfield, New Bedford, Fall River, and Dartmouth. You should file in Bristol County Probate Court in Taunton, MA or Bristol County Probate Court in New Bedford, MA.
For: Hanover, East Bridgewater, Norwell, Kingston, Marion, Carver, Hanson, Mattapoisett, Whitman, West Bridgewater, Bridgewater, Brockton, Hull, Halifax, Lakeville, Plympton, Pembroke, Rockland, Plymouth, Marshfield, Middleboro, Duxbury, Wareham, and Scituate, Rochester, Abington, & Hingham. 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: Marblehead, Lynn, Peabody, Newburyport, North Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, Andover, Haverhill, Danvers, Salem, Saugus, Gloucester, or/and Beverly. You should file in Essex County Probate Court in Salem, MA.
For: Milton, Quincy, Wellesly, Brookline, Randolph, Stoughton, Braintree, Weymouth, Norwood, Franklin, Dedham, or Needham. You should file in Norfolk County Probate Court in Canton, MA.