The Mediation Process: A General Sequence of Sessions
The length of a mediation session is two hours; however clients may choose a one‐hour and a half hour session. Both spouses attend the joint session. In addition to appointments, you may communicate with the mediator via telephone, e‐mail or written correspondence. The overall length of time required to reach a comprehensive settlement is usually determined by the following:
- The complexity of income, assets, and liabilities
- The amount and duration of support, either child support or alimony
- Custody or parenting disagreements
- Ability to agree on the issues regarding the divorce settlement
- The amount of debt
- The real estate market
This session will provide a detailed explanation of mediation, separation and divorce filings and timelines, and Probate and Family Court information. Your mediator will obtain pertinent information, and provide a specific list of the financial and legal documents you must provide. All financial information must be submitted, a process known as legal discovery. Your mediator will discuss confidentiality of the mediation process according to Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 233, and Section 23C.
As parents know, children are the most important aspect of divorce. When minor children are involved, the second session concerns legal and physical custody. Your mediator will draft a custody and parenting plan specific to your family requirements. You will receive information concerning the Massachusetts Parent Education Program, a divorce court requirement for parents of minor children.
A review of both income and living expense is the major consideration for child support. Your mediator will complete the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. Responsibility for future child support as well as future college costs will also be addressed.
In situations where the payment of alimony may be appropriate, this topic is of great importance to both individuals, and often the most difficult part of the entire divorce settlement. Your mediator can be especially helpful with all aspects of an alimony provision in your divorce settlement. An important service of our mediators is their level of expertise in providing a tax analysis of support options in order to maximize tax savings for each person.
The division of assets typically begins with an in‐depth look at the marital home and the financial and tax implications of having one owner (via transfer of the title) or continued joint ownership. Your mediator will assist you in determining the complications of sole or joint ownership. All assets are reviewed, to include: retirement and pension plans, brokerage accounts, stocks and bonds, vehicles, business valuations, trusts and gifts, and contents of the house. Liability decisions include the responsibility for mortgage notes, equity lines, car loans, promissory notes, life insurance, and retirement loans, credit card, and all other debt.
A major concern in divorce is continued medical insurance coverage for each child. Responsibility for insurance coverage will be addressed. Another significant and more complicated issue is the availability and cost for health insurance coverage for an ex‐spouse. Your mediator will explain both federal and state statues regarding ex‐spouse continuation of medical insurance coverage and COBRA.
The tax consequences of your settlement will have significant impact on your present and future disposable income. Your mediator will provide avenues that will reduce both federal and state income taxes, as well as capital gains and other taxes. If you have children, the mediator will address who is entitled to the child dependency exemption, as well as which parent will be entitled to the head of household filing status. Addressing each of these issues appropriately may result in significant tax savings. In addition, the mediator will draft an understanding that minimizes or eliminates tax upon transfer of assets incident through divorce (according to IRS regulations).
Our mediators are knowledgeable about the complex areas of federal and state tax law and federal and state regulations. If tax consequences are of concern to either of you or your spouse, you will be best served by using the Divorce Planning Institute of New England. You always have the option of consulting with your accountant or tax advisor concerning any tax issues that arise.
Your particular situation may require the resolution of additional issues, such as ownership in a business, a trust, or a significant inheritance.
Before this appointment, you will have received your Memorandum of Understanding. You and your spouse will have ample time with the mediator to review and revise your Memorandum of Understanding prior to having it scribed by mediation-friendly attorney(s).