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. In the context of probate law, this process can be used to help resolve disputes over the probate of a will. Mediation allows couples and families to make decisions collaboratively through the assistance of the mediator without having a judge make the orders for them.
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. Attorney Erin Whelan Pennock usually meets with the parties in two hour increments 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.
How do we reach an Agreement?
Attorney Pennock will meet with both the parties in two hour increments at mutually agreed upon times to discuss the matters at issue. During this time, she will take the time to listen to each parties’ needs and concerns and will assist and guide the parties toward realistic solutions that will 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 Attorney Pennock will step aside.
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?
The parties, with the assistance of their advisory attorney, get a hearing date with a judge and then may go to court with attorney(s) or go by themselves, representing themselves “pro se”. At the uncontested divorce 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 with mediation clients as it may create a perception to the court, or the couple, that the mediator had represented them.
Whether you are a couple looking for a cost effective way to move forward in your divorce or a family looking for assistance with a will dispute, the mediation process can be a valuable experience and allow for the parties to feel heard, understood and valued. Erin Whelan Pennock Esq. is the compassionate 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 free consultation.