What is court ordered mediation and private mediation?
In Massachusetts, there are a couple of different types of court ordered mediation, if you will. One is that occurs in the courthouse after you’ve attended court or you’re going to the court to litigate a disputed issue. Sometimes, before you see him, the judge will send you to family service. Family service is in the same building as the courthouse usually, and it is a court official who has worked in the court for a long time. He generally knows all the issues that people confront when they are undergoing a divorce. And you sort of get the court’s view on how it would probably decide to resolve that issue. That is one use of court-ordered mediation and the judge will send people to family service if they feel like there are only a couple of issues that are separating them or that they could benefit from the court family service office.
The other is more of a conciliatory program. It is becoming very common in Massachusetts. Some of the counties have now adopted a conciliation program. Basically, if you start a contested divorce and then you are in court say for a motion for temporary orders or a discovery dispute or a content issue over disobeying a court order, the court might send you to what is known as conciliation. Conciliation is done by a volunteer lawyer. These are lawyers that volunteer for the court on an approved list. The list is maintained by the court to meet with parties and their lawyers if they have any, and to hear both sides and then to come up with a recommendation to the court.
The recommendation that the conciliator makes is not binding in court. The court still has the ultimate authority to make a decision. But oftentimes it helps the parties to have a lawyer who is not their lawyer giving an opinion on how an issue should be resolved.