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DrThomson@interpeople-inc.com
LITTLETON & ARLINGTON

Save Time Money and Grief with an Experienced Mediator

Dr. Thomson helps divorcing parties cover all issues from A to Z, including all child related and financial issues. Dr Thomson brings knowledge of Massachusetts divorce norms and expectations, child development, psychology, taxes, finance and an analytic mind on top of her mediation skills

Some couples come to Interpeople after spending thousands of dollars and many months on attorneys in the traditional divorce route. They find their relationships undermined and their savings depleted with no progress. It usually takes five to six meetings to conclude the process of divorce mediation and the cost is a fraction of the cost incurred with divorce lawyers.

How to choose a Mediator

If you are facing a divorce, you will need a sympathetic and steady hand to guide you through this painful and confusing process. How do you choose your mediator?

The Mediation Practice

Interpeople Inc was established in Massachusetts in 1996. It is dedicated to helping people resolve tough interpersonal disagreements in a good constructive way at low cost.

Since its establishment, Interpeople has gained recognition in the mediation community. It has been listed among the top ADR companies in the Boston Business Journal's Book of Lists in five consecutive years, while such a list was included in the Book of Lists.

Most cases are in Middlesex County, with many coming from Chelmsford, Westford, Concord and Acton, MA. Many are in Worcester County including Fitchburg, Leominster, Clinton and Harvard. Interpeople's Arlington Office serves nearby Lexington, Somerville, Cambridge and other towns in the Greater Boston Area.

Portrait of Dr Shuneet Thomson - Mediator and Founder of Interpeople
Meet Interpeople's founder Shuneet Thomson, PhD
Dr. Thomson has been a mediator since 1988 and is known for her informal, calm and humorous style. Dr Thomson has mediated over 1,000 cases, including about 700 divorce mediations. Read her professional Biography

Mediation differs from arbitration. Find out what makes it work so well.
See how mediation can deal with hostility or power imbalance between the parties.

Read about the Role of the Mediator and the Role of the Parties.

Keep in mind: "Give peace a chance" does not mean "leave peace to chance." You need to act on conflict that persists and undermines.
S. Thomson

Dr. Thomson believes mediation is a helping profession. People often come to her in distress over conflict that has gone on for years, or over the breakup of their marriage. Much of the initial anxiety is reduced by the first meeting. By the time the parties reach the end of the mediation, they have a sense of how their life will unfold, most concerns are addressed and in most cases their relationship is improved.

Helpful Links

Divorce Mediation for a Decent & Affordable Divorce

Dr. Thomson helps divorcing parties cover all issues from A to Z, including all child related and financial issues. Dr Thomson brings knowledge of Massachusetts divorce norms and expectations, child development, psychology, taxes, finance and an analytic mind on top of her mediation skills

Some couples come to Interpeople after spending thousands of dollars and many months on attorneys in the traditional divorce route. They find their relationships undermined and their savings depleted with no progress. It usually takes five to six meetings to conclude the process of divorce mediation and the cost is a fraction of the cost incurred with divorce lawyers.

How to choose a Mediator

If you are facing a divorce, you will need a sympathetic and steady hand to guide you through this painful and confusing process. How do you choose your mediator?

Cost of Divorce Mediation

Mediation costs you less and rewards you with better outcomes. How much a mediation process costs varies from case to case. Here are some factors that affect cost, plus the typical cost of Interpeople's mediation services.

FAQs

Questions about divorce in Massachusetts: What is the court process? The difference between Contested and Uncontested divorces? What documents does the Probate and Family Court require?
Questions about Divorce Mediation: How does it work? How much does it cost? How long does it take?
Here are some answers.

Typical Divorce Mediation Process

(Divorce cases with no young children can take 2-3 meetings. Cases with children who are minors typically take around 5 meetings)
Dr. Thomson mediates divorce in Massachusetts only.
Click on links to open
A complementary introductory meeting takes place with both parties and the mediator, in which the process is explained in detail. This meeting does not oblige the Parties in any way. If they decide to proceed with the mediation, here is a typical outline of the process.
An Agreement to Mediate is signed, the parties' finances are given a quick overview, the court's required Financial Statement is introduced and explained. A checklist of issues is provided. Parties decide what issues to discuss first. If there is no 'burning issue', child related topics are discussed first, starting with child custody.
A routine parenting schedule is agreed upon, and a parenting plan for school vacations, holidays and breaks, including summer, summer camp, etc.
Child related issues continue to be discussed, including when and how to tell the children, how to deal with birthdays, how to deal with possible relocation of either parent. Education related issues are reviewed. Special child needs are discussed. Planning for college savings and tuition aid is discussed. If possible, child support is covered at least in part taking into account incomes and parenting time.
Child related issues are concluded. Pros and cons of child support vs. alimony are discussed, different options are considered and calculated in the context of forward-looking budgets that the parties have prepared. The goal is for both parties to be able to manage financially after the divorce.
Life insurance (how much? for how long? etc) and health insurance (who carries? how is the cost shared?) are discussed in detail and decisions made. Assets and liabilities owned by the parties are reviewed and tabulated and decisions are made about how the marital property and debt will be divided and how and when exactly the decisions will be executed. If most ground has been covered and one anticipates finishing the process next meeting, the court packet is given to the Parties.
Remaining questions and other minor issues are reviewed. The court documents that were filled by the Parties are reviewed and the meetings end.
What remains then is for the mediator to write up the decisions that were made by the parties in the form of a Memorandum of Agreement, based on notes taken in the meetings. The Parties can have this reviewed by attorneys if they choose, or go with the court packet that they have prepared and file an uncontested divorce in court.
The process usually takes 5-6 meetings, but can take a longer or a shorter time depending on complexity of issues and the parties' ability to make decisions. Mediation of short marriages with no children tend to end quicker and cost the least.

Child Support in Massachusetts

Child support in Massachusetts can be an onerous obligation for the payer, yet there is flexibility and room for creativity in the decisions that divorcing parents make.

The Massachusetts approach takes into account number of children and parent incomes, minus health insurance premiums and cost of daycare.

How much time the child/ren spend with each parent determines if the payer will pay full child support or a variation of it.

When incomes are roughly equal and parents have the children roughly equal amounts of time, they can engage in cost-sharing instead of child support.

Ultimately what matters is that the children are provided for and the parents are able to survive the financial stress of their post-divorce life.

Click here for much more detail about Child Support

Massachusetts Child Support Calculator
Click on the calculator to open the 2013 Massachusetts Child Support Worksheet (PDF).
Plug in weekly numbers only.
You can save the calculation.

Here are documents providing a detailed explanation of the worksheet:

If you are uncertain whether your case is suitable for mediation, email Dr Thomson
for a complementary consultation about mediating your issues.

Alimony in Massachusetts



Alimony is a form of spousal support. Are you obliged to pay Alimony? - Not necessarily.
Difference in incomes, length of marriage and other circumstances will determine whether alimony is appropriate in your case or not.
Are there children in the marriage? The interaction of child support and alimony plays into it too.
Tax considerations need to be taken into account (alimony is deductible to the payer and taxable to the recipient).

It's a little complicated - learn more details here:

Read Alimony - An Overview (PDF) by Dr.Shuneet Thomson.
Read Alimony - The Text of the Law (PDF)


Video about Alimony by Dr Thomson - Mediator
Video: Shuneet talks about Alimony in Massachusetts

Workplace Mediation

Interpeople Mediation offers comprehensive dispute management services. These include workplace mediation, facilitation, training, coaching, dispute resolution system design and part-time ombuds services.

How destructive conflict is depends on how well it is managed. A conflict competent manager can nip problems in the bud and use workplace conflict as a springboard for growth and improvement in the workplace. A conflict competent workplace is achievable by resolving existing disputes, if any, and training staff and managers to deal with disputes and disagreements constructively.

We spend at least 36% of our waking hours at work - it is crucial that this environment be positive and energizing. A tense and hostile work environment is demoralizing; employees hate coming to work, and if it gets really bad, their health and general wellbeing is affected on and off the job. The negative financial consequences for the employer are obvious too. It is possible to mediate workplace conflict and to train management and line workers to handle issues early on, before they escalate and get entrenched. The goal is a conflict competent workplace. Training, coaching and resolving existing conflicts can transform your workplace for the better.

Former Clients

Subject to limits of confidentiality, here is a partial list of Interpeople former clients:
  Boston City Hall   a Central Mass town-hall   Houghton Mifflin   a medium size bank   a small manufacturer on Rt. 95   a furniture design and manufacture company
in New York   an Art Museum in Central Massachusetts   Zeraim. More..

Sometimes conflict arises within small businesses or between businesses and their suppliers or clients. In family businesses this is complicated by the fact that staff are also family relatives.

Court Experiences of Mediated Uncontested Divorces

Here are some divorce mediation testimonials taken from emails and cards that clients sent after their divorce hearing. Only initials of first names used, and even these are often changed. Note that "MOA" means Memorandum of Agreement.

Click on links to open

Hi Shuneet, The court hearing went very well. Don't remember the name of the judge, but she was very nice. We were there all day, but once we got up there she was very appreciative of our very detailed memorandum. She asked a few questions and that was it. She granted us our divorce and we were on our way :-)
D. [the son] is doing well. We are excited for school to start. Its been a long summer. Thank you so much for all your help.
Take care,
R.
Our hearing was yesterday. Judge Kagan presided. He asked a few questions to each of us, separately:
- Did you have a lawyer look over this MOA?
- Are you paying T. alimony?
- What kind of dog is Rover? (yes, he really asked that!!!)
That was about it. We should get something in the mail in 3-4 weeks.
[personal words between the parties is omitted here]
I felt very good about the way the mediation went and about how we treated one another.
Thanks for all your help!
very best,
T.
Our meetings with you helped us to restructure the "business" end of our partnership and now we are working on the emotional/spiritual end. I am so glad that we met you and worked with you, always felt we were both cared about in your office. Your professionalism and expertise has helped tremendously. I hope not to see you again in the office setting (!) but I am extremely grateful to you for the time we did spend in your office.

Happy Holidays and warm regards,
G.
Good afternoon Shuneet…

T. and I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that our court hearing went very well. The judge actually asked if you were a lawyer because the agreement was very thorough with no errors. To quote him he said: " Your mediator did a thoughtful and thorough job! I combed it for mistakes and found none, which is unusual." He was very complimentary of the way it was written and the way T. and I handled some of the things in the agreement. Thank you for your help in making a difficult situation easier and smoother.

If we ever have a need to re-visit items of the agreement or need help managing any new parenting situations that may arise, we will be sure to call you to help us resolve.

Warm regards,
R.
May 2013

I just wanted to let you know, that we got divorced last Tuesday. It was pretty quick, as you said it would be, although it was not without drama. About 20 minutes into the days court proceedings, all the power in the building went out! The judge did process a few more uncontested divorces without power, but then left, with only two of us left. When we asked if he'd be back, as ours was also uncontested, the clerk said the judge had concerns about our case and would need computers to process the proceedings. The power came on after 30 minutes, he came back, and essentially his concern was that with the length of our marriage, he wanted to be sure that we understood what we were asking for, ie, no alimony, no ability to change the ruling later, etc You coached us well, we referred to the pages outlining our financial situations, etc. He was satisfied and then it went smoothly.
I believe the judge was William McSweeney. He was pretty good, moved things along quickly, asked a few questions here and there.

I wanted to thank you for all you've done for us. While a painful process, your help was immense and I'd recommend you to anyone in a similar situation. In fact, I gave your name to my therapist as she inquired and sometimes needs to make referrals to people that do what you do. I hope our paths cross again Stay well! T.
Dear Shuneet,
It's amazing that you e-mailed us right on the day when I filed our paperwork with the court. I went there in the morning and drove to the airport from there. The lady who took our docs looked them through and said she couldn't believe nothing was missing. She called her colleague to double-check and after the latter said everything was in order, they looked at me in amazement. I told them we had a good mediator who was kicking our butts to make sure we fill out all the paperwork correctly.

So far so good. They didn't give me the date of the hearing though. We should receive it by mail. I asked how soon the hearing may be scheduled and they said it can be anything between 2 weeks and 2 months. But because our file was so "pretty" (seriously, this is what they said J), we may expect an earlier rather than later date. Will let you know how it goes.
V.
December 2011

Hi Shuneet,
We went to court yesterday and were the first case called. Everything went smoothly, only a couple of questions concerning dates. Thankfully I remembered them all. Then questions about us both agreeing to everything in the MOA. I think it went so well because you had prepared us so well. Thank you for helping us through this difficult time. The judge was Edward Donnelly. Thanks again Shuneet and our best to you.
S
July 2012

Dr. Thomson,
Report on the divorce hearing in court.
I arrived in court at 7:30 AM and had to wait until 8:45 until someone signed off on my forms. I was directed to the courthouse down the street and found another very long line to wait in. After 2 hours of waiting, I got in front of the court clerk who promised to review my documents after everyone in line was served. The line was so long because this valiant clerk was screening everyone before the judge threw out the case because of incorrect language or missing documents.

My packet was very complete and had the correct wording everywhere thanks to your help. I saw people filling out financial statements in line, changing numbers around and inflating figures, arguing with their soon to be ex-spouse. I saw people in handcuffs taken from jail to appear in court for failing to pay child support. I had a bunch of extra forms to fill out that day. I declined DOR assistance for collecting child support. I had to fill out a survey and provide a self addressed envelope for my wife and I.

I made it into the courtroom for Judge Patricia A. Gorman. I had to wait for the clerk to take my papers and to be called once the session resumed. This took another hour. Around noon I was called before the judge, asked to swear an oath and answer a series of questions. The judge approved my wife's motion to excuse her presence, because she now lives out of state. The questions verified my identity and date of marriage. I had to state that I understood what was survived and what was to be merged and integrated. The process took about 3 minutes.

So, in summary it was 5 hours of a lot of waiting and some interesting people-watching. All your helpful preparation helped us get the court's approval without a return visit and made it so that I could represent myself. Thank you once again.
G.
Hi, Shuneet.
Here is our update from today. I thought we were on at 8:15, but we had to move through several lines of processing bureaucracy [because we were not pre-scheduled to come on this date]. And, we found out later that Court didn't start until 10am. However, we were the first case called before Judge Leilah Keamy. She asked us maybe a dozen questions -- most were confirming facts (date and location of marriage, date of separation, confirmation of irreconcilable nature of breakdown, and basically that we have been honest). No specific questions about the MOA were asked, but we were asked if we used a mediator and whether we had access to legal advice. And, it was over by 10:10. A. and I guessed it might have been 5 minutes in total before the Judge, if that. She seemed to be excellent and efficient.

As to the MOA, we were complimented twice on it -- the first was Friday when I filed and had everything stamped by the Probate clerk, and then again today, when the person who preps the cases and goes through all of the docs before assigning the case said to us "your mediator did a very nice job with this document."

We had some entertainment factor watching the lawyers for other couples -- the XXXX's seemed to be quite the legal battle preparing to brew, so in a way we are glad we were first and missed that one! And, that we used you instead of lawyers.

Thanks, again, Shuneet.
B.
Dear Shuneet,
My name is D.S. and you helped mediate a divorce between me and my former wife, E.S, in 2000 - 2001.

While it was a very difficult time for me emotionally, you got us all through the process smoothly and professionally. Ten years later we are all doing well. Our daughter S., 26, graduated from University and is working on her PhD in Molecular Biology. J., 18, is a freshman at _______, studying to be an architect. And L, 17, is completing her senior year of high school. E. and her new husband are still living 2 blocks away and we all get along fine. And I am engaged to be married in June (and am moving soon to _____, MA).

You can see me and the kids in the attached photo. The wedding photographer gave me and J. a big compliment when she said we got along as divorced parents of the bride better than many married parents!

I hope you are well. I was so pleased to see that you are still helping people with your mediation "magic". You hold a dear place in my heart and I am truly grateful and thankful for all you have done for our family.

Sincerely,
L.S.
From: T

Dear Shuneet,
I just want to thank you for the excellent support you gave D. and me through the mediation process. You were so steady and professional. D. and I both loved working with you and that warm, understanding presence, humor, patience, and caring that you brought to the table really made things so much easier.

The court procedures went very smoothly. We arrived later than the time for walk-ins that Monday morning, but they still got us in (called a judge who was willing to let us come). We had a woman named Judge Monks. We only had to sit in the courtroom for about 20 minutes before our names were called. After looking at our paperwork the only question she had was about a typo near the top of p. 8 about D.'s inheritance. Pretty sharp skimming she did! All her other questions to us were routine, the same she had asked other couples. Everything went through fine, I just received the divorce nisi notice today.

Shuneet, again, you were wonderful. I look forward to running into you sometime around the neighborhood. Meanwhile, all the best to you and yours.

Warm regards,
T.
Dear Dr. Thomson,
T. and I had our divorce court appointment this morning and everything went extremely smoothly. We now have a good appreciation of the work and counseling you did for us because we felt very prepared. There were other couples who showed up with empty financial statements and other omissions that resulted in unexpected delays and scrambling.

Thanks very much for all your help and for making a difficult experience manageable.
U.
Dear Dr. Thomson,
I am writing to thank you after going to court and sailing through without a problem. J. did file a motion to excuse his presence and stayed in FL and I went with a friend for support. The judge's name was Judge Monk. She was very decent.

The divorce, which as you know I did not want, has been an awful experience, but you made it half bearable. Your professional skill and knowledge of the subject matter were essential for us because of our complex finances, thank you.

As you yourself said, I hope we never need you again, but if problems come up, we will know whom to turn to.

Best Regards,
Dear Dr. Thomson,
S. and I would like to thank your for your help during this difficult time. You helped us navigate the support issues and the financial stuff that was impossible for us to deal with on our own and helped us move forward with a good parenting plan. We will certainly recommend you to our friends and acquaintances (although we hope they never need you!).

Good bye and God bless,
T. and S.
Hi Shuneet
A. and I had our court hearing today with Judge DiGangi. You requested that we get back to you about the hearing afterwards, so I'm following up.

We arrived at the court in Cambridge and had to stand in line outside like we were waiting to buy tickets to a movie. After going through the metal detectors, we proceeded up to the courtroom. Waited 45 minutes for DiGangi to enter. Didn't know that there would be other people in the courtroom with us. Found it really off-putting and an invasion of privacy that we could hear the specifics of other people's private lives and that they could hear ours during the proceedings.

A. and I went next and the only question DiGangi, who was brusque and on autopilot, seemed interested in was where we were married. He couldn't seem to understand why our marriage license said one place if we had married in another town in the same state. "Why is that so confusing," I thought? We married in one place, though we were living in another at the time. He asked us to clarify.

He asked a bunch of standard questions -- if we'd read the agreement, if the irretrievable breakdown of our marriage had begun in January of '08, if we'd sold our home, if I'd received what we'd agreed upon from S. by now, if we believed our agreement to be fair and equitable, and we just kept saying, "Yes."

He quickly told us the divorce would be final in 120 days and said, "Good luck." He spent more time with the couple before us because they had a child, I believe, but even at that - their hearing lasted maybe 10 minutes (one of them had an attorney; the other didn't), while our hearing lasted maybe 3 minutes -- or less.

That's the scoop.

Thank you for all your help!

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DrThomson@interpeople-inc.com

Offices conveniently located in LITTLETON and ARLINGTON
Directions & Office Hours
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In our Littleton office we now have space to sublet - see photos. It is a great location, a few hundred yards from Rt. 495, on a busy road.

OFFICE LOCATIONS AND MAPS:

Interpeople Mediation
294R Great Road,
Littleton MA 01460
(Near Chelmsford, Westford, Harvard, Acton & Carlisle) See Map

Serving Central Massachusetts and Eastern Massachusetts: especially Middlesex County, Worcester County and Norfolk County including Acton, Ashby, Ashburnham, Ayer, Berlin, Billerica, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Clinton, Concord, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Holden, Hopkinton, Hudson, Leominster, Littleton, Lowell, Lunenburg, Marlborough, Maynard, Pepperell, Shirley, Shrewsbury, Sterling, Stow, Sudbury, Townsend, Westford, and more...

Interpeople Mediation
22 Mill Street, suite 405,
Arlington MA 02476
(Near Concord, Lexington, Cambridge, Somerville & Bedford) See Map

Serving Eastern Massachusetts: Middlesex County, Essex County and Suffolk County including Newton, Arlington, Boston, Bedford, Belmont, Brookline, Burlington, Cambridge, Concord, Essex, Framingham, Lexington, Lincoln, Medford, Melrose, Methuen, Natick, Somerville, Waltham, Watertown, Wayland, Weston, Winchester, Woburn, W. Roxbury, Salem, and more...