First, What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution through the use of a neutral third party who attempts to assist the parties to effectively communicate and resolve disputes. In the context of family law this process can be used to resolve disputes involving divorce, child custody and support, alimony, division of assets, paternity, and actions for modification. Mediation allows couples and families to make decisions collaboratively through the assistance of the mediator without having a judge make the orders for them. Ultimately, a judge will need to approve the agreement, however the couple will determine the terms on their own with the mediator.
What does Mediation cost compared to Litigation?
The cost of mediation varies depending on the matters at issue and the cooperation and schedules of the parties, however the overall cost is usually much less than the cost of litigation. Erin Pennock typically meets with the parties in two hour increments in person or via zoom and the number of meetings will vary depending on the matters at issue. In addition to the cost of the mediator, it is often necessary for the parties to receive independent legal or financial advice from an attorney or financial advisor of their choosing. Erin is able to provide referrals of any outside professionals.
How do we reach an Agreement?
Attorney Pennock will meet with the parties together in two-hour increments at mutually agreed upon times to discuss the matters at issue. Erin is able to meet via zoom or in person depending on the couples’ preference and location. During the mediation meeting, she will take the time to listen to each party’s needs and concerns and will assist and guide the parties toward realistic solutions that serve their best interests.
Even when there may be the best of intentions and the efforts to resolve their issues through conflict resolution and negotiation, some parties may find an agreement through mediation simply will not happen for them. If you go through the mediation process and are still unable to reach a resolution, the divorce case will then go through the court system and Erin will step aside. Erin is always happy to provide a partial agreement based upon what the parties were able to agree to.
Is information exchanged during the mediation process confidential?
Yes. The confidentiality of mediation is protected by Massachusetts law, (Chapter 233, Section 23C). This statute requires both clients and the mediator to sign a written agreement to mediate, which protects all communications made in the course of mediation. This statute prohibits both the clients and the mediator from disclosing any confidential communications or materials that were made in the course of the mediation in any judicial proceeding.
What happens when we reach an Agreement?
Erin will help the parties put together the necessary paperwork to submit the Agreement to the appropriate court and will inform the parties about how to submit the paperwork so that it will be accepted by the Court. The parties, with the assistance of their advisory attorney if they have one, will submit the paperwork to the Court and get a hearing date with a judge. The parties may go to court with their attorney(s) or go by themselves, representing themselves “pro se”. At the hearing, the Judge will review the Agreement and if they find the terms fair and reasonable will approve the Agreement. Your mediator would not appear in court at this hearing.
The mediation process can be a valuable experience and allow for the parties to feel heard, understood and valued. Erin Pennock is a compassionate divorce mediator who strives to ensure equality, fairness and a sense of civility during what can be a very difficult time for all involved. Please call or email Attorney Pennock to schedule a consultation.