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Julia Rueschemeyer

Divorce Mediation | Boston, Worcester, Springfield

MA Divorce Mediation with Attorney Mediator Julia Rueschemeyer
Boston/Springfield/Worcester and all MA locations


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.


Call to learn more about divorce mediation service and uncontested divorce.

call_section_icon_imageCALL JULIA 413-253-7484

Frequently Asked MA 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.


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 were done by Zoom . Even without COVID it is possible to request to appear over Zoom.



How much does divorce mediation cost in Massachusetts?

A survey of MA 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?

“Filing” is a fancy name for mailing them or dropping them off at the court. You do this task. 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 an attorney 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 your own attorney has something to review. About 5% of my mediation clients consult with an outside attorney. This consultation can be especially valuable if your spouse is the more assertive or dominant partner in your relationship.



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 obligated 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. In mediation with me, you will get a complete picture of what your divorce can look like within a day of our first meeting. This picture could easily take a year or more to emerge in a litigated case. In the rare case that mediation fails, 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 learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that divorce mediation works very well through Zoom. Because divorces are governed by state law, not any town or county 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 mediation near me” or “divorce mediator in my area”; you can simply find the best divorce mediation attorney, state-wide, who is an expert in Massachusetts family law. 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. This style of mediation can lead to separation agreements that favor the more dominant partner in a couple. My family law mediation style is active and directive, and I work hard to keep the playing field level so that couples can negotiate equitable agreements that serve both of their needs.



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. Your case is then treated as an uncontested divorce.
Many couples switch to mediation when they realize how long and expensive contested cases are. I have successfully mediated many cases–in a matter of weeks–where couples had already spent many months and many thousands of dollars mired in litigation.



Can we mediate even if we have already hired divorce 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 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 attorney mediators or divorce mediation lawyers. In Massachusetts, there is no required certification or licensing or education for divorce mediators, so anyone can put up a sign or a website and identify themselves as a “divorce mediator.” It is therefore safer to select a divorce mediator who is an attorney, as a non-attorney may have no qualifications.



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; one spouse is very dominant and the less powerful spouse is unable to express what he/she wants; or a spouse is likely to hide significant 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 counseling—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 mediation lawyer?

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; or bright-line or relative-time division of pensions. Ask them about the specifics of your situation–they should be able to immediately lay out ways that couples in your situation might reach agreement.



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.”


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:


What is Divorce Mediation in Massachusetts?

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.

What Does A Boston Divorce Mediator Do in MA Divorce?

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.

Divorce Mediation in the Massachusetts Divorce Process

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.


How To Choose A "Divorce Mediator Near Me"

Your goal is to choose a divorce attorney mediator  who excels in the three things a mediator does: 1) The mediator manages interpersonal relations and conflict; 2) The attorney mediator communicates legal parameters and processes so clients can understand the issues they must address for their families and future; and 3) The mediator educates clients on financial issues so they can make informed decisions that will be a basis of the eventual court ordered divorce decree.


1) A good MA divorce mediator exhibits empathy and compassion and can manage conflictual interaction, acknowledging painful emotions. At the same time, the mediator helps a couple move forward, step-by-step with the practical, concrete decisions that are the basis of a separation agreement. In other words, the mediator needs excellent interpersonal and communication skills.


2) Legal knowledge and client education. A good divorce mediation lawyer is a broker between the legal system, with its archaic traditions and language, and normal people who simply want a) what is best for their children, b) fair financial outcomes, and c) a predictable and secure path forward to their post-divorce lives.


The mediator uses their knowledge of the law to gently guide the conversation in a way that puts clients’ needs first. An expert attorney mediator writes the separation agreement in a way that meets legal standards and is clearly understandable to both you and the judge. Finally, this family law expertise allows the mediator to advocate with the court for you and your decisions if a court clerk, for example, mistakenly rejects your court documents or asks for clarifications.


3) Financial expertise and client education. A good mediator understands and can explain the financial dimensions of divorce, giving spouses a clear picture of their financial situation and the implications of different financial choices going forward. MA separation agreements have sections that focus on children and parenting, but otherwise focus overwhelmingly on financial issues and decisions. Divorce mediation is, in large part, financial mediation.


Your mediator should be able to display to you, in easily-understood numbers and charts:

  1. your total assets and debts, and
  2. the exact numbers and implications of any choices you make about support payments and division of property.


They should be able to display to you, in black and white numbers in real-time, the financial consequences of each scenario you discuss, e.g., “What if I kept the house, he kept his pension, and I kept the charge card debt?”


The mediator’s ability to present a financial overview and make clear the implications of each financial choice made by the couple is critical to creating a level playing field for making decisions about money.


It is not uncommon for a relatively dominant spouse in mediation to insist, “You’re taking everything and leaving me nothing.” It is much more difficult for that dominant spouse to persist in that claim if the couple and mediator are gazing at a spreadsheet that shows the division of assets to be exactly equal or even favorable to the dominant spouse who is claiming they are getting nothing.


Such clearly displayed financial facts can also encourage a less assertive or less financially savvy spouse to advocate for themselves. Even if such a spouse is not good with numbers or finance, he or she can see that getting 45% of total marital assets while their spouse is getting 55% is not equitable.


So how do I find a top Massachusetts divorce mediation attorney  who excels in these three crucial areas?


1) Interpersonal skills and empathy.

The best way to judge the empathy and your fit with a mediator is to have a brief, no-cost (Zoom) interaction with them. You and your spouse must do this together, so neither of you feels like the mediator “belongs to” the other spouse. If you and your spouse do not feel comfortable with the mediator, or the mediator does not readily share the ways they work with couples or other legal information that you are looking for, the mediator is probably not a good fit.


2) Ability to share legal information and legal parameters regarding divorce.

Even before you meet with the mediator, study their website. Do they readily share useful, user-friendly information and guidelines about child support or division of property or how uncontested divorce works?


When you call their office, do they answer your questions about divorce in ways that make sense to you and seem doable? Or do they communicate in a way that makes the legal parameters and process seem incomprehensible to a normal person?


3) Communicating about divorce finances.

Does the attorney mediator give useful financial information on their website? Do they explain division of marital property in ways that you can understand?


Do they have user-friendly calculators for child support, alimony, and the new combined support, Cavanagh calculations?


Do they show a clear understanding of pensions and retirement accounts and how they can be divided in divorce? Do they do QDROs for 401k and defined benefit plans themselves (which shows that they understand them deeply)?


When you call their office, do you get answers to your basic financial questions? If you ask how to divide a house that one of you owned before marriage, do they lay out in clear terms the ways divorcing couples can divide the value of such a house in a fair and equitable way?


If the mediator cannot communicate about the financial aspects of divorce in ways that make sense to you, you should choose a different mediator.

How Long Does Massachusetts 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. 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.

How Much Does Massachusett Divorce Mediation Cost?

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.

Can a Boston Divorce Mediator Give Me Legal Advice?

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.

What are the Pros and Cons of Divorce Mediation in Boston and Massachusetts?



The pros of divorce mediation are numerous:


  • It is much less expensive than hiring lawyers and litigating, and it is much less expensive than hiring two litigating lawyers to attempt to negotiate an uncontested divorce outside of court.


  • It is much faster than using the courts for a contested divorce.


  • It empowers you to be creative and make decisions tailored to you and your family. A good family law mediator gives you the tools to customize your separation agreement according to your family’s unique priorities and needs.


  • In contested cases, a judge does not have time to understand your situation or customize the divorce agreement in ways that work for both of you. They must keep cases moving.  The judge will simply impose court orders about how you take care of your children, what happens to your property, and how much, if any, support will be paid.


  • It is less adversarial than the courts, which are set up as a competitive contest. Even the way cases are named, e.g. “Plaintiff/Defendant” or “Jones vs. Jones”, suggest a competition with winners and losers.


  • If you have children, mediation gives you practice in discussing and coming to agreement on the many practical issues that you will continue to face as your children grow and you co-parent after divorce.


  • It is more private than a contested case, where your finances and personal business are publicly discussed in court.


  • In a contested case, you will not know what is going on in court. You and your spouse understand your children’s needs, the value of your house, what belongings each of you wants to keep, and the importance of keeping health insurance. Unfortunately, once a case is on a contested track, none of this practical knowledge matters. Court motions, proceedings, and legal rules of evidence takes over, and you will have great difficulty understanding it.




There is one small disadvantage and two potentially major disadvantages to divorce mediation:


The small disadvantage is that hiring a divorce attorney mediator costs more money than doing the process yourself. Unfortunately, Massachusetts family courts have made the process difficult. The required  court documents are poorly designed and confusing, making it very difficult to know what they are asking for, why they are asking for it, and what information goes where. Courts regularly reject DIY divorce filings over minor technicalities and don’t tell people how to fix them. Because court clerks are so afraid of giving “legal advice” (even though they are only giving “legal information”) they write messages such as, “We cannot give you legal advice. You should seek legal counsel” when they reject your filing.


The first potential major disadvantage of divorce mediation is that a dishonest spouse can more easily hide assets or financial information from the other spouse than they can in a contested case. Contested cases often begin with “discovery”, in which each spouse’s attorney requests 3-5 years of paystubs, credit card statements, bank statements, tax documents, business records, investment statements, property appraisals, insurance payouts, and records of debts, liens, and mortgages. This is a very long, inefficient, and expensive process. It does not guarantee that hidden assets will be found or that a complete financial picture will emerge, but it can make it more likely.

A family law mediator does not impose “discovery” on a couple, but the mediator can support a spouse’s request for particular disclosures. If a spouse in mediation requests to see financial statements or records from the other spouse, the mediator will support this request. The mediation lawyer, however, will not initiate the discovery process.


The honest spouse has some legal protection because the Financial Statements that are submitted to court are signed under penalty of perjury. If the financial statements are eventually found to be fraudulent, even after the divorce is final, financial aspects of the divorce agreement can be re-opened and litigated.


The second potential disadvantage of divorce mediation is that if you do not have one of the best divorce mediators in Massachusetts, a dominant or more forceful spouse can push a less assertive spouse into an agreement that favors the more forceful spouse. The separation agreement could favor the dominant spouse financially, in terms of parenting plan, or in other details. This is possible because mediators cannot advocate for one party or the other. If one spouse tends to be aggressive and insists on always getting their way in the marriage—and the other spouse regularly submits to this—this pattern can carry over into mediation. The resulting separation agreement can easily favor the more assertive partner.


For such marriages, it is very important to have an active attorney mediator who makes sure the couple understand legal parameters, rights, and standards. It is also important to hire a mediator who regularly and clearly illustrates, in black-and-white numbers, the fairness (or lack thereof) of financial decisions the couple are considering. Even a relatively unassertive spouse may be empowered to speak up for themselves if they can see that their spouse is trying to pay below standard amounts for child support or if the division of assets is not close to 50-50.


There are two final layers of protection for a less assertive spouse.


Each spouse is always welcome to consult with an attorney, who advises them on how to maximize their side of the equation in divorce. A person who feels like their spouse dominated them in their marriage can consult with an attorney after the mediator prepares the financial statements and an initial draft of the separation agreement. The consulting attorney can review the initial draft and frankly advise the less assertive spouse if the agreement seems fair and equitable. Such a consulting attorney can suggest ways a less assertive spouse could benefit from aggressive representation by an attorney in a contested case.


Armed with this information, the less assertive spouse can better advocate for themselves in the next mediation session. This information also allows a spouse to make informed decisions as they move forward with mediation. For many spouses, moving forward with a divorce quickly, affordably, and relatively amicably is more valuable than maximizing their position on every issue in the separation agreement.


The second and final layer of protection against a one-sided agreement is the judge who reviews and signs the separation agreement. It is only when the judge signs the agreement that it becomes a court order and the divorce decree is issued. The judge can and should reject the agreement if the judge determines it is unfair.


Finally, if either spouse stands before the judge and says, “I don’t think this agreement is fair and I don’t agree to it,” then the judge does not sign it and the case is dismissed. There is no divorce.



How to File an Uncontested or Mediated Divorce in Massachusetts

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:


  • 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?) Remember that after the August 2022 Cavanagh decision, judges must consider combined alimony and child support orders.
  • Health Insurance and Life Insurance
  • Filing taxes and dependent deductions
  • Pets

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.

Where do I file a mediated divorce in Massachusetts Probate Court?

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.