Parent Mediation Program
With federal funding through the MA Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division since 2008, MOPC has been operating the Parent Mediation Program to resolve child access, visitation and parenting plan disputes for families in Massachusetts. The goal of the program is to increase parenting time for children in families where the parents are no longer together and wish to co-parent, and to promote cooperative parenting and increased understanding of children’s needs and interests. The program is administered by MOPC in partnership with five community mediation centers across the state.
Mediation allows people the opportunity to discuss how best to arrange their ongoing co-parenting arrangement. Children whose parents no longer are together generally fare best when they have ongoing involvement from both parents. Establishing a parenting time schedule is an area where parents often experience conflict, as it has to fit the needs of the children and both parents. Children's needs change as they grow older. Parents' circumstances change too over time, and they may need help putting workable plans together. Children adjust more easily to change (in routines) if their parents work together to develop healthy ways of communicating, resolving problems, and reducing conflict.
Who can participate?
The program is available for parents (biological and/or adoptive) who no longer live together, or who currently reside together but have a desire to move apart. At least one parent must be a Massachusetts resident (the other parent must be able to attend the session). The mediation will focus on the parenting time, access, and visitation but may also involve other issues. The parents, and other persons the parents feel need to be there, should attend the mediation session. Children are not usually included in mediation unless both parents feel that older children would benefit from participating. Contact us or one of the partnering community mediation centers to learn more about the eligibility criteria.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an informal way to resolve disagreements. It promotes communication and co-operation. A neutral person, the mediator, helps those involved better understand the issues, explore creative solutions, and reach agreements that are acceptable to both parents. The mediator does not tell people what to do or make judgments about who is right or wrong. The decision-making stays with the parents where it belongs. People are more likely to comply with an agreement that they themselves negotiated. Mediation is voluntary, collaborative, and flexible. It is also confidential (Massachusetts General Law c.233, s.23C).
Benefits of mediation
- Mediation is usually less costly than going to court, both financially and emotionally.
- Mediation allows parents to retain control over the decision-making process.
- Mediation is private and informal.
- Mediation allows parents to create a parenting plan that best fits their needs and the needs of their children.
- Most people find that mediation helps to reduce hostility and support relationships.
What does mediation cost?
Because of grant funding, there is not cost for the first four hours of mediation when discussing parenting plan, access and visitation issues. If other issues are part of the mediation (e.g. full divorce) fees may be charged when discussing those issues. Please note that as the grant year progresses, grant funds may not be available to cover the four subsidized hours.
About the community mediation centers
The following five community mediation centers provide mediation services for the Parent Mediation Program:
- Community Dispute Settlement Center
- Family Services of Central Massachusetts
- MetroWest Mediation Services
- North Shore Community Mediation Center
- The Mediation & Training Collaborative
The community mediation centers provide a range of free or low cost mediation services in their local communities and courts. The centers focus on resolving conflicts in families, homes, schools, neighborhoods, and small businesses. In the Parent Mediation Program, the centers schedule mediation, assists parents in preparing for the mediation, assign and supervise mediators, mediate and follow up with participants.
Mette Kreutzmann, Program Manager
Massachusetts Office of Public Collaboration (MOPC)
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Boulevard, M-1-627
Boston, MA 02125
Telephone: (617) 287-4041; Fax: (617) 287-4049
Or contact a partnering mediation center directly:
- Community Dispute Settlement Center: www.communitydispute.org
- Family Services of Central Massachusetts: www.fscm.org/mediation
- MetroWest Mediation Services: www.metrowestmediationservices.org
- North Shore Community Mediation: www.nsmediation.org
- The Mediation & Training Collaborative: www.communityaction.us/conflict-resolution.html
Parental Resources: Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement