Lynch & Owens offers a free initial consult to all of our potential clients. Often times, during these consultations I am asked “what’s the difference between mediation and divorce?” The answer is always the same – they’re not the same thing at all: divorce is a legal status or goal – an end, if you will – and mediation is a means to that end. Mediation is one of several procedures designed to help parties reach that status or goal that we call divorce. What potential clients do not realize is that what they’re really asking is: what’s the difference between mediation and litigation in a divorce?
As mentioned above, there are many ways to get a divorce, and mediation is one of those ways. Mediation involves the parties to a divorce (spouses who want to be ex-spouses) engaging with a neutral professional who does not and cannot advocate for either of the parties. The mediator is trained (sometimes an attorney but this is not necessary) at assisting the parties in reaching necessary agreements and memorializing those agreements for submission to the only court that will grant a divorce in Massachusetts, the Probate & family Court. If the parties are able to reach agreements on all issues required by the court before it grant a divorce (for example, child support and custody, division of the marital assets, etc.) the parties may never have to litigate.
Litigation, which is another means to divorce, essentially means that the parties have lawyers navigate the process toward divorce by completing steps such as to perform discovery (the paperwork of your marriage), and propose agreements. In litigation, the two sides negotiate, and finally, if necessary (you fail to reach an agreement on all issues) your lawyer will advocate for your position by arguing points of law and the merits of your case to a judge, who will then make your decisions for you. Many people describe this as “letting the lawyers battle it out” which sometimes leads to the parties reaching a full separation agreement, a partial agreement, and sometimes forcing the case to trial and letting the judge make your decisions for you.
About the Author: Josey Lyne Payne is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer and Massachusetts family law attorney for Lynch & Owens, located in Hingham, Massachusetts.
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