Frequently Asked Questions

Mediation is a confidential, out of court process, where the parties meet with a neutral individual, the mediator, to help them make decisions to attain agreement.

A mediator is a neutral person or case facilitator who cannot give legal advice, but can provide legal information. A mediator is permitted as an impartial individual to prepare the mediated agreement reached by the parties that they can take to Court. It is always recommended that mediation clients consult their own counsel to review any agreement prepared by the mediator where the mediator is a neutral and does not represent or act as counsel for any of the parties in the mediation process.

Mediation can be a streamlined and cost effective way to address family law problems and come to resolution.

What is a mediator?
A mediator is a neutral person, who facilitates communication and information gathering between the parties, discusses with the parties whatever issues they have that need resolution, and works with them to help them reach agreement.
What kind of training does a mediator have?
In order for your mediation sessions to be confidential, a mediator in Massachusetts must complete a 30 hour mediation training by law, M.G.L. c. 233 section 23C. The mediator must also have either four years of professional experience as a mediator or be accountable to a dispute resolution organization as defined by the statute or have been appointed to mediate by a judicial or governmental body.
How do I prepare for mediation?
It is helpful to think about your goals for the process and the outcome. In addition to working with the mediator, communicating with your financial planner or advisor to help put together a list of assets and liabilities and whose name they are in is very useful, or create that list yourself if you don’t have a financial planner or advisor. Compile and organize your most recent statements including bank, investment, stock, and mortgage account statements as well as paystubs or other evidence of income such as tax returns. Make notes for use in mediation about your short and long range concerns and goals, as well as any questions you may have about the issues in your case or about the mediation process. We offer a complimentary informational session about mediation if you are unsure of whether mediation is right for you and to assess if the mediator is a good fit.
How does mediation differ from settlement counsel, Collaborative Law, and litigation?
Like Collaborative Law and settlement counsel, mediation is a confidential out of court process, designed to focus on needs and interests rather than positions, so that parties can be settlement focused. Parties to mediation can come to mediation with or without attorneys. Mediation can even be helpful when parties are already in court; the parties and counsel use mediation as a way to resolve their case without a trial and shortcut the litigation process.

However, unlike Collaborative Law and most litigation, clients in mediation often come to the mediation table without legal counsel, so they may not have an advocate in “real time” advising them in the mediation sessions. While parties in mediation, Collaborative Law and using settlement counsel have to be actively involved in the negotiating process, in mediation clients may be doing all the negotiations themselves without an attorney present even if they have consulted an attorney to advise them regarding the mediation process. In Collaborative Law and when using settlement counsel, the client has the assistance of legal counsel throughout the process.

Litigation is an in court process which tends to be more adversarial, provide parties with less control over process and outcome, and may have greater financial and emotional cost for parties and their families, but for some clients litigation may be a necessity. It is important to get legal advice to understand all your process options and what might work best for you.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Choosing mediation as the path to achieve an agreed upon settlement offers many potential advantages including, but not limited to:

  • It is an out of court process focused on agreeing to resolve the family legal matter thorough negotiation, communication, and collaboration.
  • It is private and confidential.
  • It may help you and the other party find a way to move forward with your life in a more positive manner including but not limited to co-parenting after divorce.
  • It may help maintain relationships with mutual friends, family, business, or community connections that you don’t want to “split” as a result of your divorce.
  • You have more control over the process and outcome as you are not leaving it to the Court to make decisions for you.
  • The emotional cost on you and your family and the financial cost can be less than litigation.

The timeframe for resolution of a family legal matter via mediation is generally shorter than litigation.

What if I don’t want to litigate, and am interested in mediation, Collaborative Law, or using settlement counsel, but am not sure if the other party will be willing to participate?
For some clients either mediation, Collaborative Law or using settlement counsel will work for them; but some clients may do better or feel more comfortable in only one of these processes. At Levitt Family Law & Mediation, for parties interested in mediation you can either go ahead and schedule a session or alternatively we offer an informational session where we meet with both parties, not to talk about the substance of the case, but to discuss the mediation process, and answer your process questions to help you make a decision about whether mediation is a good fit for you. It is important to know, however, that the mediator in a case cannot later represent either party in any legal matter.

If you are also interested in Collaborative Law or using settlement counsel, as part of your consult with Levitt Family Law and Mediation, we can provide you with information that you can share with the other party that might help in deciding whether mediation, settlement counsel, or Collaborative Law is the best process to choose for you. In some cases, a hybrid model using more than one process can be used. For example, in one of our Collaborative Law cases, there was a single post-divorce issue that the parties and counsel all agreed would be best served by mediation with legal counsel present. Mediation and settlement counsel processes, including Collaborative Law, do not have to be mutually exclusive.

What happens during the mediation process?
Clients sometimes want to know what mediation “looks like”. It takes place via online meetings or in person or a combination of both. We start by finding out a little about the parties and their case, including children and their finances, so that the mediator can be educated by the parties about their situation in order for the mediator to better help them. We establish agendas for each meeting so that the meetings have structure and so that we make sure we address all the issues necessary to reach agreement.

We generally set aside two hours for each meeting, but parties are not required to use all of the time if it is not necessary. Some meetings are shorter or longer in length by design. Parties have an opportunity to be part of crafting the process as we go along, and should feel free to let the mediator know what is working and what is not, so that adjustments can be made along the way, to ensure that the process is as efficient and productive as possible.

Why Levitt Family Law & Mediation for Mediation?
With 30 years’ experience as a practicing mediator, Karen J. Levitt was an early adopter in embracing mediation as an effective approach to resolving family legal matters including divorce. Her vast experience as a proven, skilled litigator and negotiator makes her a highly sought-after mediator for divorce cases and other family law matters. She is certified as a mediator by the Massachusetts Council of Family Mediation, the only certifying organization in the state.
Can a mediator act as our attorney or give legal advice?
No, the mediator cannot act as either party’s attorney, or give legal advice. However legal information can be provided, and it is helpful when the mediator has a background with legal training and experience.
Do I need a lawyer if I am in mediation?
While having an attorney is not required in mediation, it is recommended that clients consult with an attorney prior to starting mediation to understand their legal rights and responsibilities, and consult with an attorney during the process for support and guidance from an advocate. However, if a party chooses not to do that, at a minimum the party should have any agreement drafted by the mediator reviewed by independent legal counsel.
Does the mediator come to court with us?
The mediator does not come to Court with the parties. The mediator is a neutral, and does not represent either party, and therefore does not accompany them to Court. However, the mediator explains the Court process, so the parties know what to expect.
What is the cost of mediation?

At Levitt Family Law & Mediation, mediation is based on an hourly rate, and the parties determine how they want to divide the cost. If the mediation is with the parties only, payment may be “as you go”, meaning payment is made at the end of each mediation session, and any billing for services provided in between sessions is also the responsibility of the parties. A retainer however will be required if the parties are having the mediator who is an attorney draft their agreement, or under other circumstances as determined by the mediator. If the mediation is with parties and legal counsel, which often requires larger blocks of time, a retainer is required. Either way, mediation is often the least expensive of the process options to resolve a divorce or other family legal matter.

Where can I get more information about Mediation?

We have more information about mediation on our website; see also our Resource page, and search our blog, Around the Table, for additional information.


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