Massachusetts Divorce Mediation Interpeople-Inc


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LITTLETON & ARLINGTON

Family & Divorce Mediation - Littleton & Arlington MA

Dr. Thomson helps parties resolve their issues, whether in divorce, the workplace or in the community. Divorcing couples, neighbors, partners in business, employees who can't work together and other situations can be resolved in mediation. If the conflict has reached a point where you are considering hiring attorneys and going to court, save yourself time and money and try mediation first

Conflict can be very distressing. It can rob people of their peace of mind and occupy their minds at work and at home. Ultimately the commonground in all cases is people's humanity and intelligence. Once they see each other's perspective, most people can reach agreement with the help of an experienced mediator.

Most importantly, don't let it drag on and on. The longer the dispute lasts, the more entrenched it becomes and the harder it is to resolve.

How do I choose a Mediator?

If you are facing a dispute that you cannot resolve on your own, you will need a knowledgible and experienced impartial third party who can guide you with a steady hand to a place where you and the other party can make decisions that will work best for all. Here are some criteria for selecting your mediator

How much does Mediation Cost?

The cost of mediation depends on the type of mediation. Click here for details.

About Interpeople

Interpeople Inc was established in Massachusetts in 1996. It is dedicated to helping people resolve tough interpersonal disagreements in a constructive way and 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 an ADR list was included in the Book of Lists.

Meet Dr Thomson, 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 750 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.

Line of dots to separate paragraphs Interpeople serves clients in Central Massachusetts and Eastern Massachusetts. Most cases are in Middlesex County, with many coming from Chelmsford, Westford, Groton, Carlisle, Concord and Acton. Many cases are in Worcester County, including Fitchburg, Leominster, Clinton, Lancaster and Harvard. Interpeople's Arlington Office serves nearby Lexington, Somerville, Cambridge, Waltham and other towns in the Greater Boston Area.

Divorce Mediation for a Collaborative and 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 relationship undermined and their savings depleted with little or 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 do I choose a Mediator?

If you are facing a divorce or any conflict you cannot resolve on your own, 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.

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?
Press the FAQ tab above for 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.
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A complimentary 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.
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 about 5 meetings, but can be longer or shorter depending on complexity of issues, the parties' ability to make decisions and whether there are minor children in the marriage. Mediation of short marriages with no children tend to end quicker and cost the least.

Child Support in Massachusetts can be Negotiated

Child support in Massachusetts can be an onerous obligation for the payor, yet there is flexibility and room for creativity in the decisions that divorcing parents make. A negotiated child support decision follows the Massachusetts Guidelines for Child Support, while taking the parties' particular concerns into consideration.

About the 2018 Child Support Worksheet

By law, the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines need to be revisited every four years. The 2017 Guidelines and their associated worksheet were very problematic and needed prompt reconsideration. The outcome is the 2018 Child Support Guidelines and worksheet.

The 2018 worksheet resolves the 2017 problems and yields a clearer outcome. It distinguishes between parents who share parenting of the children roughly equally and those who don’t and adds a little consideration to having a child older than age 18 (who is and still dependent, but not older than age 23).

If you read the instructions embedded in the worksheet, it is really self explanatory for the most part. Be sure to list on the left column the party who is expected to get child support (ie, the parent who has the children most of the time, or has the lower income when time with the children is roughly equal). Keep in mind: all the numbers (income and deductions) are WEEKLY. You plug in the information and it does the rest for you.


Frequently Asked Questions

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Child support pays for all routine expenses - including food, clothes, part payment for the house, utilities and routine school expenses.
Extracurricular activities, unsecured health care expenses and summer camp are not included in child support and are usually shared in some fashion by the parents.
The expectation is that biological or adoptive parents support their children. However, there is flexibility, depending on income and on the amount of time the children spend with each parent. If the incomes are roughly equal and the care is roughly equal, parties can opt for cost sharing rather than child support. There are other mitigating circumstances, such as college payments.
In Massachusetts, a person who is married to the mother within 300 days of the birth of the child is considered the legal parent of the child even if he is not the biological parent. This is a presumption that can be overcome with a paternity test. However, even if the paternity test proves that the husband is not the biological father, this does not necessarily mean he is not considered the legal father. Someone who acts like a parent for a period of time long enough for the child to be attached to them as a parent has certain rights and obligations. The best interest of the child require that a "de-facto" parent continue to be involved in their life (i.e. have custody and visitation rights) and in some cases also pay child support.

Even absent a marriage, if a father signs a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity and is added to the Birth Certificate, then they are presumed to be the Father. After one year passes it becomes almost impossible to undo this legal acknowledgement of parentage. In the case of a faked paternity test or other fraud it might be possible to have a Court undo the acknowledgement even after the one year period. However, in many cases, as was in a CA case, the father who has been involved in the child's life would be considered a "de-facto" parent anyway.

In summary, you don't have be genetically related to a child to be a good parent and in some circumstances you needn't be the biological father to be obliged to pay child support.

The above text was copied with the kind permission of Justin Kelsey of skylarklaw.com


Official Documents

Official Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines. (PDF)

Download the 2018 Worksheet

Plug in weekly numbers only.
You can save the calculation.
Massachusetts Child Support Calculator

If you have questions that have not been answered here, feel free to contact Dr. Thomson and ask her.

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.

NOTE: The new 2017 tax law has dropped a spanner into the traditional workings of the alimony law, as described here:

Alimony payments that commence in 2019 or later will no longer be deductible on the Payor’s tax return, nor taxable on the recipient’s tax return. The tax treatment of Alimony payments that commenced - based on a court order - in 2018 or in prior years will continue to be recognized and can remain unchanged. However, it will lose this privilege if parties attempt to modify it.

This latter point is not very clear in the new law ("clear as mud" was the general consensus in a recent discussion). This will become clear over time. For now, I quote here a conclusion drawn by Attorney John Fiske who wrote as follows (after debating the issue in an email correspondence with MCFM members): "To lose the deductibility of the new alimony payment the modification has to expressly provide that the new statute applies to it. Ergo: if the modification does not so provide, the amended alimony amount will be deductible.” So, modifying an established pre-2019 alimony order might not necessarily lead to its losing its tax deductability.

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


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

(Note: the tax related info will no longer apply to new divorces, starting in 2019)

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.

FAQ About Divorce in Massachusetts

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You go to the main Probate and Family Court in your county to file for divorce. They will tell you what to do, depending on what kind of divorce you are filing for. For an uncontested divorce, you need to have all the paperwork ready and signed by both you and your spouse when you file. They will take your papers if you have filled it all correctly, and notify you some days later of a date for the hearing. A Contested with Fault divorce is more complicated and you would be best served by having an attorney do the filing for you. A Contested No-fault filing triggers 6 months of no hearing before the judge, except for emergency decisions, where a judge will decide on questions that need urgent determination and the parties' attorneys cannot agree on. A clerk of the Divorce Department in court estimated the average length of contested divorces is about 2 years.
They differ in process and inevitably they differ in cost. Both Fault and no-Fault divorce are contested because they are managed by attorneys who represent you and fight for you. In Fault-divorces one party files for divorce and blames the other for the breakup. There are about 5 grounds for blame that are recognized in Massachusetts. The party who is blaming the other, has to prove that the other party has indeed done one or more of the infractions that broke up the family (infidelity is one of them). These are costly full-fledged court cases and only about 4-5% of cases go this route in Mass. People often hire an attorney, who will soon file in court with no blame being assigned. The No-Fault filings trigger 6 months before a hearing is scheduled before a judge. This gives the attorneys time to negotiate an agreement for the parties and the judge decides on issues they cannot agree on. So, although it is 'no-fault',such divorces are considered contested. A divorce is Uncontested if everything is agreed to when the papers are filed. This is usually the case in mediated divorces. The courts assign just 10 minutes in front of the judge in Unconstested cases. They are the easiest and least costly of the three types.
There are altogether seven forms to file if you have children in your marriage, five if you have no young children. You also have to include a certified copy (with a raised stamp) of your marriage certificate and a separation agreement that contains the details of the divorce settlement, assuming you have agreed on it. The filing fee for an uncontested divorce is $215, which you can pay by personal check. Most of the forms are pretty easy to fill out and represent both Parties. The financial statement is separate for each party and is a little more fussy and detailed. You need to do it right, or it could be returned to you for correction. You can get the forms on line under the Mass courts website. Keep in mind they cannot be saved, so be sure to be connected to a printer...
Yes, you can, but the question is is it advisable. You can try to file on your own, but you are unlikely to succeed unless your marriage was very brief, without children and without property. Your filing is much less likely to be acceptable in court if you have minor children, or a long term marriage. In all events, you owe it to the children and to yourself to use the services of an experienced and informed professional. The same applies to marriages with extensive or complex property situations.

FAQ about Mediation for Divorce

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Typically divorce mediation in a case with young child/ren takes about five to six 2-hour meetings. In short marriages with no children the process can take two-three 2-hour meetings. The length of the mediation process is determined mostly by the complexity and number of issues and by the ability of people to make decisions on issues. The more divided and angry the parties are, the longer it takes.

The cost varies from mediator to mediator. In Interpeople, divorce mediations with minor children typically cost between $3,000-$3,500 altogether for both Parties (half each, on average). When no minor children, they typically cost $1,500-$2,000 altogether. Long term marriages with older children typically cost around $2,000. These amounts can vary up or down, depending on the case.

No, you are not required to hire an attorney and most divorce mediation clients don't hire attorneys, although mediators will refer them. It is an option that you have at all times during the mediation process. You can have a "consulting attorney" in the background of the mediation if you feel a need to have someone advise you who is dedicated to your interests only. It is your choice. An attorney who is supportive of mediation will give you constructive feedback on your decisions in mediation and will respect the choices you make. If you and your spouse agree, the attorney can rewrite your mediation memorandum as a Separation Agreement. After that you can go to court on your own ("pro se" as it is called), or have an attorney represent you, whichever you choose.

An attorney cannot serve both parties as an attorney - it is considered conflict of interest, because the parties sometimes have opposing interests. An attorney mediator will refer you to attorneys for individual legal advice. While wearing a "mediator's hat" the attorney is not supposed to proffer legal advice.

Yes, you can switch to mediation after filing a contested divorce with attorneys. However, if you want to work things out together in an open and collaborative way in mediation, you cannot at the same time fight each other with attorneys. You will have to ask your attorney/s to stand down and hold off any further action on your behalf. You can continue consulting with your attorney in the background of mediation, or not - it is your choice.

The most important criterion is the mediator's experience in general and in the type of mediation you are looking for in particular. The second criterion of importance is personal compatibility. You can meet the mediator and want to feel comfortable personally with the mediator and able to trust him or her to know "their stuff" and serve you well. Lastly, considerations such as convenience of location and cost can play into your decision. For a more detailed response, click here.

You are not obliged to do so, but if your spouse will have no access to health insurance or cannot afford a separate plan, it might be the right thing or the kind thing to do. The spouse could pay the extra premium cost that is due to his or her inclusion on your plan, which means that carrying your spouse will not cost you. If it is a family plan with children, his or her contribution could make it less costly for you. If there are children in the marriage, you might want to do it because you do not want their other parent to be vulnerable health-wise, etc. The strongest argument against keeping the ex on your health insurance even though you can, is the "clean cut" argument, if you want no contact whatsoever after the divorce.

To be able to meet together with a mediator, you will have to modify your restraining order to permit meeting at the mediator's address. However, the fact that you took out a restraining order could suggest that mediation is not the right process for you. If you are afraid or intimidated by your spouse, your case is not appropriate for mediation. The mediator will have to learn about the reason for the R/O and will need to be assured that you are not concerned about being in the same room with the spouse. The mediator will need to get a copy of the court modification of the RO, and then the mediation might proceed, subject to the discretion of the mediator.

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.

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We had our divorce hearing this morning in Worcester and you asked us to let you know how it went. The judge was Hon. Kathryn Bailey. We checked the board outside the Probate and Family office on the second floor and it said court room 12. We knew this ahead of time because of the form they had sent us. We checked in with the court recorder in the court room before the judge entered and he had us put today's date on the financial statements and re-sign them. There were other people in the court room but she took our case second. We were sworn in, then she asked us to state our names and address. She said you were married in Korea on this day, you have two kids this age and date of birth. She ask us if this was an irretrieval break down of the marriage then she looked over the financial statements and the moa. She asked me if the mediator was also an attorney. I said no just a mediator. She seemed surprised. Then she asked us if we had seen each others financial statements, if we read the agreement , if we understand the agreement, and if we feel the agreement was fair and equitable. After we said yes, she said it will be incorporated into the order of the court except for the parts that are survived then wished us luck and then we left. It all happened under ten minutes. It was a lot quicker than I thought. If you have any other questions let me know.

Thank you for all your help,
U & D



Once people go to court they are entitled to get the balance, if any, on their deposit. It is mystifying but true that people often forget about their credit balance until Dr. Thomson contacts them to find out have they gone to court, how are they doing, and wouldn’t they like to get their credit balance refunded?

Here is a response to a second reminder, almost a year after they went to court…

Hi Shuneet, I'm so sorry it was so hectic for me recently with work. G and I went to court and things were finalized last October without a problem. We seem to be doing our best and handling things pretty well. The kids have adjusted just fine as well. Thank you again for your help with everything. And a refund sounds great! I am still located at … ………. and G is still in ________ on _____ Street.

Thanks,
W
Hi Shuneet!

I did send the LinkedIn invitation and I understand why you don't accept it. :-) I wasn't sure if you would accept or not but figured I would try as I really enjoyed working with you.

I am doing well. I have been legally divorced for over 20 months . T. is doing great!
I met an amazing man and we live together in Tyngsboro. We have T. most of the time as she changed schools.

You really made a very sad and depressing situation so much better!

I'm not sure if people reach back out to you after all the dust settles... But I wanted to... I thought a big thank you was in order for all of your hard work and giving me the confidence to really move forward. :-)

Thank you!

P.
November 2015

We went in front of Judge Donnolly today. Everything was perfect, we are all set. Thank you so much for all of your help.

E.
Dear Shuneet,

I am very happy to report that we are doing very well and thank you for the follow up.

I want to share my gratitude with you for helping us during a very difficult and emotional time. Sitting down to discuss life logistics and fair balance allowed a neutral platform for G. and I to have conversations again about our life together. It was a very valuable opportunity as our couples counseling spent (in retrospect) too much time on the problems vs. the positive elements we have created over the years. Those positive accomplishments provide solutions that outweigh the problems (for the most part) and are helping us rebuild our relationship.

Your diplomatic and thoughtful approach to mediation gave us a unique and valuable opportunity to understand the precious nature of partnership.

For now…. :) we will not be pursuing a divorce. If that changes, we will be sure to follow up with you.

Thanks again,

P.

PS, Yes, our daughter is doing great. Thank you for asking!
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.
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,
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 Shuneet,
I have been meaning to get in touch with you for a week now, and finally have a minute to do so. I hope the snow didn't interrupt your days too much.

E. and I went successfully through the walk-in divorce process last Thursday. We were given Judge Connolly (E. can correct me if I'm wrong). The staff helped E. get started before I arrived (at 7:45 or so), and the whole thing was done by 11AM. The judge was courteous and not concerned about any element of our agreement; he just reviewed the major issues of support, alimony, health insurance, general knowledge and free will and sent us along. The clerk, who seemed to have the real job of reviewing the agreement and looking for errors before the trials began, commented to us that we had a very detailed agreement and that she approved of that. We certainly did too!

Anyway, I wanted you to know that it all went through with flying colors and that we're very grateful to you, as always, for your hard work in preparing such an important document. Not only did it give us great confidence on the day of the proceedings, but we have even greater faith going forward because we completed the process of building the agreement with mediation - that is to say, full engagement and participation, without acrimony, and with your good guidance and humor. Please consider E. or me a reference if anyone would like to learn more about Interpeople.
Big hug,
D.

Shuneet,
I've been meaning to write a similar note as well, and echo all of D.'s points. (It was indeed Judge Connolly.) One addendum -- the only annoying aspect was that the court's divorce division (the department that took our papers in the morning -- not the trial court) also made us fill out a full Mass. Dept of Revenue pamphlet with our contact information, job, vehicles, SSNs, etc. even though we declined having the DOR enforce the support agreement.
It took like 10 minutes to get it all detailed in there, sigh.
Thanks so much for all of your help.
E.
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.
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.
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,
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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Is it true that only amicable cases are right for mediation?

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a nervous client
See Shuneet with an irate party.


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