Is Mediation Required in Massachusetts?
If you and your spouse or ex-spouse disagree about family legal matters, your attorneys or the courts may recommend mediation. Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral party — or the mediator — facilitates discussions between two opposing parties and guides them toward an amicable resolution.
Mediation differs from litigation in that the mediator helps the opposing parties come to a voluntary agreement that works for both of them. In litigation, however, the judge decides for the parties how the dispute will be resolved.
Many states require mediation before a judge will hear a case, as mediation typically results in better outcomes. However, according to Mass.gov, mediation is voluntary in Massachusetts. This means you and your former partner can decide whether mediation is right for your case. If both of you agree that it is, then you will go through the process in an attempt to reach an agreeable outcome. If you cannot come to an agreement, then you case will go to trial.
Benefits of Mediation
Just because mediation is not mandatory in MA does not mean you should not consider trying to resolve your differences through the process. Mediation offers several advantages that litigation does not, which is why more people choose to resolve their family disputes with this process as opposed to going before a judge.
For starters, mediation is far less time consuming than litigation. With the serving of summons and complaints, discovery, the hearing and ruling of objections, delays, and other factors, trial can drag on for months. With mediation, however, you and the other party can resolve your differences in a matter of weeks.
Mediation is also confidential. Any outcomes you obtain in court will be available for public record. However, all communications that take place during mediation remain private.
Parties that resolve their differences through mediation also cite having more control over their situations. Mediation gives you and the other party a chance to resolve your dispute through discussions and negotiations rather than putting full control in the judge’s hands. This control ultimately leads to more satisfactory outcomes.
Finally, studies show that individuals who use mediation to resolve familial disputes are more likely to follow through with the terms of the agreement. This is not typically the case with adjudicated resolutions.