Divorce Mediation at TMG: Frequently Asked Questions

Why should we consider mediating our divorce agreement instead of going through more traditional channels?

Traditional means of resolving family disputes are often expensive, time consuming and adversarial. Drafting a Separation Agreement through mediation is usually less costly both financially and emotionally.

Will mediation cost less?

Because both parties negotiate the bulk of their Agreement together, rather than individually through their separate attorneys, mediation is a much more efficient and economical process.

How will mediation help us in our relationship after the divorce?

Unlike more adversarial processes, mediation is based on cooperation and mutual respect, and builds on the parties’ strengths rather than fueling their antagonism. Particularly when shared parenting is involved, preserving an ongoing working relationship post-divorce may be critical.

What is co-mediation, and what are its advantages?

Because family mediations almost always involve both legal issues and complex emotional issues, TMG works in cross-disciplinary teams, pairing knowledgeable attorneys with experienced psychiatric social workers. This model assures that the mediation is responsive to both legal and mental health considerations.

How does family mediation work? What can we expect?  

Meetings are held at TMG’s offices in Brookline and are scheduled at the convenience of the parties. In order to prepare a Separation Agreement covering issues such as custody of children and division of assets, each party is required to fully disclose pertinent financial information to the other. During the mediation process, and/or at its completion, each party reviews the draft Separation Agreement with his/her own attorney. The finalized agreement can then be filed at Court.

How long will it take?

While it is often difficult at the outset to predict exactly how much time will be necessary to complete the process, between two and five 2-hour sessions is a fairly typical time frame.

Why do we still need to hire lawyers?

Although the family mediation team always includes an experienced attorney, the role of the mediator is not as a legal advocate or advisor for either party. The mediator is a neutral facilitator whose role is to assist families in their negotiation process. TMG strongly recommends that each party consult with an attorney to review the draft Separation Agreement, as well as other forms required by the courts, before these documents are finalized and submitted to the court.

How do we know what is fair? Will the mediators tell us what to decide?

Mediators do not determine the specific content of the agreement; the divorcing couple maintains control over the decisions affecting their post-separation lives and actively shapes the terms of their agreement. There are, however, guidelines with regard to child support and visitation, as well as some basic assumptions about division of assets.  The mediators will do their best to make sure that each party understands these standards and principles and will assist the parties with their decision-making process. TMG can also make referrals to independent financial advisors or other consultants who may be helpful to the parties as they work through the issues being mediated.

How can I sign a Separation Agreement based on uncertain expectations about the future? Am I locking myself in to arrangements that I might want or need to change later?

The Separation Agreement usually includes a clause that addresses concerns about a major increase or decrease in income.  Language contemplating the changing financial circumstances based on children reaching maturity can also be built in to the Agreement.

What if life circumstances change and we want to alter the child-care arrangements after the divorce is final?

It is understood that child-care arrangements may change over time based on the developmental needs of the child, or new family circumstances resulting from remarriage or other life changes.  The Separation Agreement can reflect as much flexibility as both parties are comfortable with. The Agreement can also build in a mechanism for returning to mediation if differences arise post-divorce.

Are there situations for which mediation is not an appropriate option? 

Mediation presumes at least a minimal level of trust, and for this reason may be inappropriate in families in which there has been a history of spousal abuse or other significant power imbalance. Where one party is unwilling or unable to participate fully and freely, mediation may not be appropriate. These situations can often be identified during the intake process and referred to a more appropriate service provider. The mediation may be terminated at any time by either of the parties (or by the mediators) if it is determined that the process is ineffective.

What if my husband/wife doesn’t agree to use mediation?

Because mediation is a voluntary process, no one can be forced to participate.  If one party is having difficulty simply accepting the fact that the divorce is happening, clear decision-making may not be realistic and mediation may not be appropriate in this situation.

If we decide to go forward with mediation, what are the next steps? How do we get started?

Please call the office at TMG (617 277-9232) and either Amy or Katie will assist you.