Before you initiate a divorce in Massachusetts, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the state’s rules and options for the process. Doing so could save you significant time and headache in the coming months.
In many states, mediation is mandatory first step in the divorce process. In others, however, it is mandatory. Mass.gov explains the ins and outs of mediation and the state’s stance on it.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which an objective third party facilitates the negotiations and conversations between opposing parties — or, in this case, you and your spouse. Unlike a judge, a mediator does not make recommendations regarding the outcome; rather, he or she provides a safe space in which you and the other party can do the following:
- Identify and discuss your wishes for the divorce and concerns
- Identify common interests (such as your children or the family home)
- Review and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each of your cases
- Explore possible options for settling
- Finalize the settlement agreement
The goal of mediation is to give you and your spouse control over the outcome of your divorce and ensure a resolution with which you are both happy.
Does Massachusetts require mediation?
The MA courts do not require divorcing parties to go through mediation before litigation. The process is wholly voluntary. If you nor your spouse agree to it, a judge cannot force you to go through it. If you do attempt mediation and, after reasonable effort, cannot resolve your differences through the process, you still have the right to trial. If your case goes to trial, a judge will hear and decide your case.
Though not mandatory, there are several reasons attorneys recommend mediation to their clients. The top benefits of mediation include reduced cost, decreased time commitment, more control, increased satisfaction and more durable outcomes.